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The questions discussed in the following pages are those lying 
at the basis of a Christian theology. Until they are settled, 
it appears to me premature to enter upon the particular details 
of Christian doctrine, as expounded by any of the various 
parties who profess to be its legitimate interpreters. I have 
not, therefore, felt called upon to treat of specific dogmas, 
although the argument has led me to the expression of an 
opinion regarding dogmatic theology as a system of thought. 

Unless I am greatly mistaken, the attention of the majority 
of thoughtful men of our time is directed, more than at any 
previous period, to the subjects underlying revelation and 
religion. This is largely to be accounted for by the recently 
awakened interest in ethnic religions. The point of view from 
which these are recognised has naturally suggested the pos- 
sibility of a science of comparative religion, and this again an 
explanation of the nature of religion and its manifestations. 
In addition to this, there are causes which have always been 
$ more or less operative in the same direction, but which of late 

i years have re-asserted themselves with increasing emphasis. 

^ These may be conveniently summed up by what is known as 

V) the culture of the age. The invariable demand of those who 

speak in the name of culture, on the presentation of a written 
revelation, has been, Explain its nature and contents in relation 
to other truths ; tell us how and what it is. 
£ Many authors have written ably and exhaustively on different 

divisions of this subject, but it has never yet been treated as a 


whole. My aim has been to supply a connected view of the 
various parts. I am fully conscious that the execution of this 
design has fallen far below even my own idea of it. 

As a rule, I have only given references to writers, whose 
statements I have criticised. It is the more necessary, there- 
fore, to acknowledge in this place the help I have got from 
many books. There are two authors, however, to whom I owe 
so much, that it would be ungrateful not to mention them : I 
mean Ewald and Rothe. 

The line of inquiry here carried out was first undertaken for 
a Scottish inter-university prize of jBIOO, offered some time 
ago by a gentleman whose name was not given to the public, 
for an essay on " The Nature and Contents of Scripture Re- 
velation as Compared with other Forms of Truth." The ad- 
judicators were Principal Tulloch, Principal Caird, and Dr. 
Hannah, then Warden of Trinity College, Glenalmond. The 
prize was adjudged to the present writer. 

In preparing the essay for the press I have entirely re- 
written, very much enlarged, and completely re-modelled it. 
The fundamental conception, however, is the same. 

South Strebt, St. Andrews, 
August, 1876. 




























CHAPTER X. pagk 




























" We have for the most part only believers in the Bible, and not believers in 
revelation ; for even those who call themselves believers in revelation under- 
stand by revelation nothing else bat the Bible." 

Scripture Revelation suggests two lines of inquiry; that of 
Revelation in general, and that of Scripture Revelation in particu- 
lar. The one is a mode of the other, and in determining the nature 
of Revelation in itself we shall at the same time touch the funda- 
mental characteristic of Scripture Revelation. What is true of 
Revelation in itself may, perhaps, be more clearly ascertained in the 
first place, as much as possible, independently of the Scripture 
records. No discussion of the subject, however, can be thorough 
which does not include these documents. As data in the present 
investigation, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments must 
not be regarded as Revelation in itself, but rather as a form or 
record of a Revelation, and as such illustrative of the wider 

Such a method has, at all events, the merit of greater fairness as 
compared with the method formerly current, and to some extent still 
prevalent. It simplifies a subject which is already sufficiently com- 
plicated. The popular idea of Revelation (partly the cause and partly 
the effect of the earlier method), as a communication of a set of doc- 
trines contained in a particular book, has given rise to much confusion 
of thought, not only on this fundamental point in theology, but on 
every subject connected with biblical science. This popular view, 
starting at first from a limited conception of Revelation, as presented 
in the Old and New Testaments and reflected in the theological 
systems drawn from them, although traceable to very early times, 
was only fully developed and perfected into a theory about the 
Reformation era. The necessities of the time compelled the leaders 


of that movement to repel authority by authority, and to assert a 
principle which, while correct in its most general conception, was 
made the occasion of constructing a dogma of Revelation differing 
only in appearance from the opposing Catholic doctrine. The 
general result of the teaching of the Reformation on the subject is 
sufficient evidence of the correctness of these remarks. We are only 
now beginning to free ourselves from the narrow and formal prin- 
ciples of that ecclesiastical era, and to breathe in airier, regions. 

It is quite true that our bonds were first broken by the Protestant 
party, but not by the Protestant reform mode of thought. We owe 
our freedom to what some may think foreign aid. We are indebted 
to the philosophical and historical schools for our manumission, and 
not, directly at least, to our theological antecedents. Indirectly, no 
doubt, the revolt of the sixteenth century rendered similar revolts 
possible by presenting to all time a spirit of freedom. Critical 
investigation has thrown new light upon the Scripture records, and 
in doing so has shown elements in them which conservative theology 
is slow to allow. The historical spirit, so keenly susceptible to the 
reality that lies beneath past forms of thought and extinct nation- 
alities, has opened our eyes to the Jewish nationality and literature. 
It has also made manifest the possibility of a distinction between 
Revelation and Scripture, and given us, instead of the one Divine 
element in both, the two essential elements of vital and intelligible 
spiritual sympathy, God and man. The notion that man was not 
co-operative in the act of Revelation is contradicted both by the 
nature of the act itself and the record of Revelation which we 
possess. It seems necessary that in any communication to intelli- 
gent man intelligent action should be presupposed. By the laws of 
our constitution we are prevented from conceiving that process of 
inpouring or inbreathing, once a favourite mode of representing the 
act of Revelation. If Revelation be, as its name implies, an unveil- 
ing, there must be not only the mind that performs the act but 
the mind that perceives the facts or things unveiled. Were man 
passive in such a process, it is difficult to see how the Revelation 
could affect him. Whatever we know in our ordinary sense 
experience, we are conscious of through some modification of our 
nature. In all perceptions the personal function is a necessary 
factor in the operation ; and in the highest perceptions of all, and 
those ultimately regulative of our higher life, we cannot but think 
this self modification operative. If we deny self determination in 
the reception of spiritual truths, we seem to be reduced to mere 


magical media — media which we are usable to connect with the 
motions of intelligence. The only way in which we can conceive a 
spiritual intelligence as conscious of any object is by conceiving that 
spiritual intelligence as operative in the act. To speak of a 
Revelation by one being to another concerning some sphere of truth, 
without, at the same time, conceiving the Revelation as consciously 
perceived, is absurd. In this consciousness on the part of the being 
who receives the communication we have given us a similarity of 
nature, in some manner, between that being and the one who makes 
the communication. 

Here we have standing ground to combat the limited analysis 
of some psychologists and the confined view of some physicists. 
Thus, if man has, as we shall afterwards see to be actually the. 
case, a nature in common with the Divine, the possibility ot 
attaining a knowledge of supra-sensible things is guaranteed to 
him; and through his own nature, if not through the external world, 
a way is opened up to that which transcends everything usually 
included in mere nature, but need not therefore, as some suppose, 
transcend all experience. In this sense it is quite true, as some 
writers affirm, that there is no supernatural, properly so-called. 
If the basis of what is commonly called the supernatural is found 
to be within us, the supernatural is then merely a name for a sphere 
of experience which, in one respect at least, is on the same platform 
as the natural, although relating to a different order of truths. In 
this way the statement may be accepted that there is no super- 
natural, or the equivalent statement that everything is supernatural 
or natural, according as we are pleased to rogard it. But what is of 
more importance than any such distinction is the fact that the 
development of an experience usually excluded by extreme physicists 
and psychologists is a true evolution of the nature of man, and has 
facts corresponding to it as certainly as our sensible experience has 
its corresponding objects. 

It might be difficult to convince some physicists of the reality of 
these things ; but it would not be more difficult for one to whom 
these spiritual experiences were familiar to do so than it would be for 
the supposed physicist to convince any one of the reality of sensible 
objects corresponding to a set of mental modifications, of which the 
person needing conviction declared he had and could have no conscious- 
ness. In any Revelation, I hold that our spiritual nature is brought 
face to face with spiritual facts, and I am entitled for all practical 
purposes to maintain their reality as much as the physicist is en- 


titled to maintain the reality of the facts of which he is conscious. 
The objection usually taken against what, for the sake of distinction, 
we mnst call the supernatural or spiritual, is an objection taken too 
often in toto and on the very threshold of the subject. But this is 
not a fair way of dealing with any question. It forecloses all inquiry, 
and is quite unscientific. What does science say to its votary above 
all things P Is its language not, how ignorant we are, how limited 
our knowledge, walk humbly therefore amid the great unknown ? 
Yet here in thick darkness, at least with purblind eyes, dazzled, too, 
by the blaze from one quarter of their heaven, the objectors we speak 
of cry out at once on the bare mention of the spiritual : " This can- 
not be, we cannot see it, and therefore we shall round our know- 
ledge to one sphere. We shall stand upon our little island here, 
with the untraversed deep around us, and call this our world. 
Beyond is nothing to us. We shall not even sally out to it. We 
shall not chase the horizon that streams with light and glory coming 
from otherwhere than our small world, to see if perchance we can 
touch it, or learn if it will fly, and flying allure us with its light 
into regions of illimitable expanse, realms of glory, which would 
dispel some of our darkness, correct some of our conceptions even 
of this world, and amend perhaps our notions of the limits of the 
knowable. We shall not do this. We Bhall sail about our creeks, 
whose every shallow we know, whose perturbations we can descry 
and signal with our storm drums. We shall not venture on any 
voyage of discovery, even with the most skilled spiritual pilot of 
the past, lest we lose ourselves in the shoreless sea of the unknown." 
This is no exaggerated representation of the attitude of modern 
science to what is called the spiritual. It is in many cases as blind 
to it as the ancient mind was to the modern conception of physical 
law. Those who hold this position in regard to spiritual truth seem 
to forget, that as experience in these formerly comparatively un- 
known and therefore supposed arbitrary fields of action enabled 
men to reduce natural facts to law and order, so experience in the 
supernatural or spiritual fields which Revelation makes known to 
the human spirit may also exhibit, if not the same kind of order 
in their phenomena, at all events the reality of these phenomena. 
The scientific reform, like all reformations, has been violent. In its 
reaction from the supernatural, or rather the superstitious, it has left 
half the truth behind. Obedient only to its primary impulse, it 
imagines everything solved when it traces succession in sensible 
experience, and rarely seems prompted to an explanation of anything 


farther. Revelation, on the contrary, has little to do with the work of 
science, and seeks rather what lies underneath the antecedents and 
consequents of sensible experience. At this point we are met by the 
supreme difficulty of passing in thought from the seen to the unseen, 
— the possibility or impossibility of such a passage ; we are brought 
in short to the battle ground of all Revelation, viz., the mode in 
which spiritual truth becomes known to man, and the facts which 
form the body of this spiritual Revelation. 



" The past had always something true. ... In a different time, in a 
different place, it is always some other side of oar common human nature that 
has been developing itself." 

The difficulty attending any investigation of the question regarding 
the mode in which spiritual truth is (what is termed) revealed to 
man cannot be exaggerated. It has been maintained, on the one 
hand, that there has been spiritual truth among men apart from 
what many are in the habit of regarding as a special revelation of 
it ; and, on the other, it is asserted that all such spiritual knowledge 
is derived by tradition from some original special revelation, 
possibly from the Jewish. There are facts that have been held as 
countenancing both theories. In the remains of ancient mythologies, 
as well as in present religions other than the Christian, points of 
elevation, rising apparently to the height of genuine spiritual insight 
into spiritual truth, have been reached by seemingly independent 
means. While again, mingled with these, are to be found striking 
resemblances to many narrative portions of the Jewish and Chris- 
tian revelations, forcibly suggesting to many minds some actual 
connection of the one with the other. But a more painstaking 
investigation of primitive forms of thought, especially by means of 
comparative religion and comparative philology, has overthrown 
much that was formerly considered to give likelihood to both 

There are two general conclusions bearing on the theories now 
mentioned, and forming, in a manner, a summary of the argu- 
ments supplied by the two comparative studies just alluded to : 
viz., that from comparative religion, which gives us the natural 
development of savage theology and shows that the deities recog- 
nised by the primitive man are not debased forms of the one true 
God revealed to some primeval ancestor; and that from com- 
parative philology, which lends support to the theory that external 
nature alone does not reveal the spiritual to man. While both con- 
spire to prove that the representative idea of the spiritual sphere, 
viz., God, is not revealed through nature ; and that the so-called 


revelations read by men through this medium were kosmical and 
not spiritual, and attained the form of spiritual verities by a sub- 
jective process, thus separating mythology from historic religion. 
According to this, there would be, so far as regards the derivative 
theory, no necessary connection between the Old and New Testa- 
ment revelations and those supposed revelations found elsewhere. 
Nor was it ever sufficiently realised that the derivative theory, now 
almost exploded, is based upon a series of suppositions none of 
which are certainly true. It must exhibit a real and not an ap- 
parent similarity between the original and derivative conceptions ; 
and this, as we have seen, is rendered daily more and more difficult. 
There is the equally arduous task of explaining how the in- 
fluence of a particular people could have become prevalent among 
peoples so numerous and so widely separated. And here the ex- 
pounders of the theory in question have not merely to contend 
against the conclusions reached by mythologists and philologists, 
But have to combat the more exact and reliable conclusions estab- 
lished by ethnological researches* And when all this has been done, 
it remains to be seen whether the supposition of degeneracy lying 
at the bottom of this theory is correct or no. 

The latter hypothesis has never, so far as I am aware, been any- 
thing more than an hypothesis. It is one of those sweeping general- 
isations, often as not the result of a very general prejudice, which 
form a starting point for theorists too indolent to acquaint them- 
selves with, facts. One labour more awaits those who would enter 
upon this task. If' the theory of degeneracy be correct to fact, it 
must be possible to state by what laws, supported by what data, the 
various religions have assumed such divergences from their original 
and typical form. In the religions or modifications . of religious 
belief connected with Christianity, such as Gnosticism and 
Islamism, for example, these positions have been established, and 
the relation between the pure and hybrid systems demonstrated. In 
the religions of many of the lower tribes we can see where Chris- 
tianity has affected and coloured the basal elements of indigenous 
belief ; where, for instance, as has frequently been the case, a moral 
and sometimes truly spiritual conception has been superinduced 
upon one merely kosmical. This has happened very frequently 
through the intercourse of Christians with barbarous communities. 
The skeleton of some particular pagan myth, while remaining the 
same, has completely changed its meaning and complexion by con- 
tact with Christian conceptions. The local myths have been, in 


fact, the trunks on which the new growth has been more or less 
successfully grafted. These myths have in such cases fulfilled for 
the new Christian ideas very much the same office that language 
permanently fulfils for thought. Schools of philosophy may rise 
and fall, science and speculation and poetry may advance ; but in 
every stage they accept the framework of existing language into 
which they throw their new thoughts. But, while these later 
modifications in natural religion produced by the Christian and 
Jewish revelations can be traced with tolerable accuracy, the 
origin of the religious beliefs peculiar to American and African 
tribes, the genesis of the more cultured systems of Egypt, Persia, 
India, and China, clearly does not Spring from the Semitic develop- 

The non- Christian systems, both in nature and aim, differ from 
the Semitic, and bear manifest marks of having been worked out by 
independent effort and by processes very similar in every case. 
The results of the action of the human mind everywhere and at all 
times on this subject bear the same amount of resemblance to each 
other as the outcome of their endeavours in other directions does. 
However much we may be struck at first sight by the diversity 
in colour and form, there is an inherent bond uniting all natural 
exertions of the human spirit. Abnormal operations, it is true, are 
quite as much subject to law as normal actions, although the study 
of them is generally attended with much greater difficulty, because 
their effects have greater complexity. This has a very direct bear- 
ing upon the position here taken up after due consideration, viz., 
that whatever opinion we may form regarding a primitive revela- 
tion common to the human race, the simple mythologies of half 
cultured men and the more elaborate developments of civilised 
communities were not abnormal and the result of a perverted form 
of such a revelation, but were perfectly normal, and the outcome of 
the operation of the human mind upon the external world. 

They are the creeds of nature worshippers, so far as we can 
apply that expression to them. The general feature of oriental 
paganism, whether in western Asia, Egypt, Persia, or India, as 
well as those forms of paganism in a lower stage, was a more or less 
distinct recognition of what we now call forces in nature, but which 
were recognised by the early mind with much less abstraction. 
The life of man in that condition of human development may well 
be supposed, as indeed has been proved again and again, to have 
existed in a confused and commingled form which is well represented 


in the literature and beliefs of the great Aryan and Turanian families. 
It was what may be called the indeterminate period ; a period when 
religions, poetical, and scientific elements were blended. It was 
the unreflective age of humanity. Nature and the objects it pre- 
sented were regarded as individual living agents. Personal life 
seen in nature is the point of view from which we must regard the 
childhood of our race. Language no doubt had a great influence 
upon the conceptions of early thinkers. Its tyranny even in our 
days. is seldom sufficiently felt; it has materially helped to form 
matured as well as childish systems of philosophy. The tendency to 
use language without inquiring very deeply into its original relation 
to fact is very noteworthy. We are constantly in danger of reason- 
ing from expressions, instead of reasoning from the facts which 
these expressions represent. We are as notoriously realistic in 
some directions as the men in early times were, although we have 
lost much of their power of concrete imagination. 

Living, as we very often do, in a verbal world, and surrounded by 
mental conceptions necessarily embodied in a verbal shape, we people 
heaven and earth with laws and principles, and reduce government 
and polity and social life to linguistic dimensions. In this we have 
not only banished emotion and action from the inanimate world, 
but we are fast banishing them from human life. Science and 
scientific methods operating through language will soon make short 
work with mental action, and reduce psychological experiences to 
the same abstract generalisations as those to which the external world 
is already reduced. This of course may be a tyranny which some 
think founded on reason. I have no intention of discussing the 
question, whether the ancient or modern tendency is more astray 
from reality ; the facte of the case are all that I am at present con- 
cerned about. They clearly show that the forces moulding ancient 
forms of thought and belief are still the same and as potent as ever, 
although they are changed in external aspect in so far as they are 
modified by the dominance of abstract thought instead of imagination. 
That which has routed all the genii from the world, all the satyrs 
from the woods, and the naiads from the groves, which has over- 
thrown the ancient gods from their Olympian throne, represented the 
thunder of Zeus on the meteorological table, and converted the rage of 
Poseidon into a tidal change, may well be considered to have largely 
influenced the formation as well as reformation of these representa- 
tions. The philologists, accordingly, have a reasonable presumption 
in their favour, in their treatment of mythology ; and the voice of 


adverse criticism that has been raised against them is, in many 
respects, as inconsiderate and uncritical as the lond greeting that 
hailed their first efforts. The method pursued by them is inductive, 
however imperfectly it is sometimes carried ont ; and it may be said 
of their science that no branch of inquiry begun since the active 
manifestation of the inductive method ever gave promise of exhibit- 
ing more triumphantly the fruitfulness of that principle than this 
very division of study. It has partly done, and will continue to do, 
for the past history of our race what geology has accomplished for 
the prehistoric period of our planet. Where this early life was dead 
and embalmed, philology has entered and with its touch awakened 
the extinct consciousness that lay in names and vocables ; which, 
fossil like, were left by the various ethnic waves in the strata of 
history. These inquiries have also been helpful in introducing a 
better and more philosophical Bpirit into discussions such as the 
present. It is partly owing to them that the same impatience as for- 
merly, in the contemplation of ethnic religions, is not now manifested. 
Calm investigation has taken the place of hasty assertion ; a wide 
observation is felt to be here, as elsewhere, the only mode of arriving 
at sound and accurate conclusions. 

Philologists, however, have some what over-estimated the influence 
of language upon mythology and religions belief. Some of them 
maintain, for instance, that in consequence of the early form of 
language the powers of nature and natural objects generally had a 
masculine or feminine gender attached to them ; that the words then 
employed had thus a living power in them, and had not attained the 
position of mere symbolic marks, such as they have at the present 
day ; that, on the contrary, they called up to the minds of the 
speakers or hearers the active operations of a natva-a. Nouns, it is 
held accordingly, were not as at present merely expressive of quali- 
ties, but were individual names. Verbs even had an actual sub- 
stantial meaning, and, in this manner, everything was necessarily re- 
presented as alive and breathing. These primitive men consequently 
thought of sensible things as individuals, and by this necessary form-' 
ation of language ascribed acts to things in themselves incapable 
of action. From this arose the poetical conception of nature, and 
an allegorical representation of its processes. Ordinary appearanoes, 
whioh we state either in a symbolic form or in abstract terms, were 
then stated and conceived in expressions denominative of life. Like 
all young powers, it is further explained, the faculty of abstraction 
was feeble, and the qualities of objects were not originally cognisable 


by men, apart and distinct from the objects in themselves considered. 
Nor were acts realised as severed from a being who performed 
them. In the language of the mythologists of this school, the men 
of the period now under discussion spake not of the sunrise but 
conceived the sun as loving and embracing the dawn, and spake 
accordingly; and the conclusion, of course, is that mythology is 
regarded as the result, primarily at least, of a transition state of 
language. The exaggeration here lies mainly in the position as- 
signed to language in the phase of thought known as mythological. 
I am very muoh inclined to doubt whether objects were at first 
considered masculine or feminine because of the early form of lan- 
guage, and rather think that it was the other way : the idea of 
life in nature is not at first the reflection of language, but the reflec- 
tion of internal personal experience. Children have notions of every 
object around them, quite as animated as those of early peoples ; 
and this manner of thought by no means arises from the existing 
forms of language, but from a limited range of vision which is con- 
fined as yet very much to a personal world. Set a child with its 
toys, or doll, or any other wooden and lifeless thing, and it will 
carry on a brisk conversation with its plaything, beat it, caress 
it, and exhibit all the signs of intercourse customary with a living 
being. It does not distinguish between animate and inanimate, 
not so much because of the necessities of speech, but because of 
defective observation and undeveloped powers of discrimination. A 
good model of an animal will please or terrify children as much as 
the reality. 

The nearest approach, perhaps, that an intelligent man now makes 
to such a primitive state of mind is the readiness with which, on a 
solitary road and in a glimmering light, he personifies natural objects 
that may assume to his imagination the most remote likeness to 
known living things, and assigns to them all the actions correspond- 
ing to his temporary impressions. Language, with the child and 
primitive man, follows mental conception in the first place ; and its 
forms of masculine and feminine used indiscriminately for all visible 
existences are the result of two forces : first, of the idea of life in 
these two forms gained from experience of one's own personality 
and that of other living beings ; and secondly, of the confusion of 
this idea with ideas that arise from our experience of a different 
order of existences which affect the early consciousness in a manner 
analogous to those general characteristic impressions produced by 
the sexes. If conscious action and personality were extended to 



what was unconscious and impersonal, from an apparent resem- 
blance in external manifestation, it is only a continuation of the 
same process when the names for the most general distinctions 
noted in the first order of existence are applied to like distinctions 
noted in the second. In onr abstract phraseology we do the same 
thing at present when we apply feminine or masculine attributes, and 
phrases expressive of action, to vegetable growth. I am glad on this 
point to support myself by a remark made by Mr. E. B. Tylor. He 
considers that these distinctions of gender, when once the idea of life 
in external nature is formed in the mind, may be owing to the effect 
that certain phenomena may have upon the sensibility as strong 
or weak, and quotes the remarks of the dyaks of Borneo, who say 
of a downpour of rain, " A he rain this ! " Mental impressions 
would thus give birth to word forms, and, as I have shown before, 
these word forms would react on future mental impressions. The 
two agencies would then combine to shape the more elaborate 
mythologies, as they have always combined in all human specula- 
tions. The myth would thus be originally the offspring of human 
conception, and secondarily only of word forms. The contribution 
to mythology by language, although thus secondary in chronological 
order, may be by no means secondary in actual importance, and is, 
in any case, indispensable in our investigations, as a reliable witness 
where no other testimony is available. Grammatical forms, classi- 
fying as they originally did animals, vegetables, and minerals, as 
masculine and feminine, are records to us of man's first opinions 
and impressions of nature, and give .us an insight into early philo- 
sophical speculations. The body of this primitive philosophy is lost 
in so far as we have no detailed treatise of the ideas prevalent at 
that time regarding physical, moral, or social life, but we have in 
language and in myth the successive stages of this humanistic 

We should err very much by introducing new principles to account 
for these early developments of human experience. <The great laws 
that form life and thought now formed them long ago. Modern 
geologists find that rock formations, with their varied phenomena of 
upheaval, waste, and fracture are best explained by the principles 
that explain geological action taking place under our eyes. The 
supposition of unknown agencies is found to be not only unnecessary 
but absolutely false. The facts to be explained and the explanations 
of these facts, whether they lie deep down in the Cambrian period, 
or above in the historic, have only time as an element of distinction, 


and this is a matter of no consequence nnless as a mark of arrange- 
ment. It is the same with mythology. It embodies the natural, 
moral, and social speculations of mankind. It is the science of the 
past, and its poetry, in short, the general outcome of human thought 
upon the experiences of life observed by the human mind. The 
family likeness in all these mythologies, with the same broad features 
repeated in widely different parts of the earth, tempting casual 
observers to explain them by a descent from a primeval revelation 
imparted to the common father of the many peoples of these differ- 
ent lands, shows how natural was this exercise of mind, and explains 
the universality of the method pursued. The local dissimilarities 
that we encounter are entirely superficial, and caused by local 
varieties of experience. The phenomena in nature out of which 
myths grew in different places would at first be those that were 
most striking to the dwellers in these regions ; and the mythic ac- 
cretion, with much in it that was common, as sunlight and its effects, 
would have here and there diversities answering, for instance, to 
the various configurations on the surface of the globe, and to the 
different nationalities or tribal peculiarities. We shall be disap- 
pointed if we expect to find a series of sciences in any mythology, 
or in all combined, although we may look with some hope of success 
for germs of what have since become sciences. This will be par- 
ticularly the case with classes of facts too patent to pass unobserved 
even in early times, being either unusually terrible or pleasing or 
useful in their effects upon man. For this is actually the beginning 
of every science. It commences at the point where its contents 
obviously touch mankind, where the occurrences whose order it 
seeks to formulate have a plain connection with individual or social 
well being. Geological changes, such as submersion, elevation, and 
eruption, atmospheric and celestial phenomena, such as variation in 
the weather, and stellar motion, lie at the basis of many myths, some 
of which are classic and universal, and others merely local, according 
to the wide or narrow action of the agencies mythicised. A good 
illustration of what I mean may be found in the New Zealand myth 
of Bangi and Papa, who were cloven asunder by Tane-Mahata, 
father of forests. Then there seems to be the germ of the modern 
or Huttonian theory of geological waste stated most exactly in the 
mythic record that the beings of ancient days (and of modern days 
too) who submerged land were a terrible race, and one long con- 
tinued, whose progeny were Mist, and Heavy-dew, and Light-dew. 
These beings are said to have carried on operations, and by their 


labours to have left very little of the dry land standing above the 
water. If we strip off the personifications in this and similar 
accounts, we have enumerated, with exceptions peculiar to the 
climate, the agencies generally classified by the geologist under 
atmospheric waste. 

The Maori must have been at an early time advanced geologists, 
more advanced than medieval speculators in this modern science. 
It is impossible to doubt that other natural events were as success- 
fully observed and chronicled, and have only become obscure or 
entirely meaningless to us, by reason of the different point of view 
from which they and we regard and represent them. Much of what 
is apparently scientific or quasi-scientific in the Bible we may after- 
wards find to be of a mythic nature ; some of these myths being 
recorded in narrative form, and others as illustrations of truths. 
Many of them in external appearance can be paralleled in almost 
every mythological system, although there are important spiritual 
distinctions in their conception. No one can pretend that the accounts 
of the creation of the world and of man by the Hebrews, as quasi- 
scientific statements merely, are superior to others that might be 
mentioned, but there is, besides this, a spiritual and Divine element, 
or, as some call it, a religious-ethical truth, in the Bible record * 
that is not to be found in other cosmogonies. These latter are as 
a rule purely mythico-scientific statements. 

Divination, which was practised in very early times, is a nearer ap- 
proach to the modern conception of science. In order to prosecute 
this art with success, many branches of it required a greater atten- 
tion to the aspects of natural phenomena than we can find any trace 
of in the half allegorical attitude of the mythic stage. The ful- 
gators, for example, must, as has been observed, distinguish the 
direction of the lightning, and a knowledge of rock formation and 
stratification would be necessary for the sinking of wells. The pro- 
phetic announcements and hopes that we find in many mytho- 
logies are only the result of cosmical observation originally, with a 
later colouring from moral relations. The prophecy of the Voluspa 
is one of the finest of this class. 

• There seems little reason to doubt that this is a hymn on creation, written 
when the religious consciousness of the Jews had reached a very high point of 
development. It is quite possible that what we now possess was based upon 
some older and cruder and more mythical forms. In fact, this is probably the 


«« Lo she beholds the earth onoe more emerge 
From oat the waters, and grow green again. 
The floods subside, the eagle flies abroad, 
And seeks his fishy pasture from the rooks, 
The gods shall meet again on Ida's field, 
And speak of him who clasps the world around, 
And of the mighty god's most ancient runes." 

The moral life framed in this beautiful mythic setting follows. 

" She sees a hall shine brighter than the sun, 
Covered with gold, upon fair GimiTs heights. 
There virtuous nations shall for ever dwell 
Through the long ages filled with happiness." 

The effects of polynomyny, as it has been called, or the use of 
several terms in describing the attributes of one object, and the occa- 
sional necessary interchange of these terms to denote several objects 
agreeing in some particulars, are certain to have been very consider- 
able. It is very easy to magnify these results, as Mr. Cox has done, 
sometimes by too much fancifolness, or by a one-sided conception of 
the growth of human thought ; and it is equally easy, as Mr. Baring- 
Gould has occasionally done, to apply this exaggerated representation 
of a partial explanation of historical phenomena in such a manner as 
would discountenance even recent authentic historic facts. Mr. Cox 
and those who think with him may be pardoned the extreme statement 
of their portion of the truth. The way to counteract their unqualified 
theory is by supplying those portions, or at least some of those 
portions, that have been overlooked by them. It has been well said 
that to isolate a particular event in political causation and demand 
its consequences is an imaginary thing, and exists only in our 
thoughts ; that no event occurs thus in vacuo. In like manner, to 
account for a particular development of human thought and life by a 
single cause, however powerfully operative that may be, is not to 
reason upon the real but upon what is entirely unreal. Where the 
result is complex, and the sphere of life, in*which the facts to be ex- 
plained occur involved, single forces ought never to be looked for. 
The antecedents will ever be as multiform as the relations, and will 
modify each other at every step in the process. And in endeavouring 
to give a rational account of ancient mental life as presented to us in 
mythology, any one theory must be held along with many others 
expressed or implied. Polynomyny, if more carefully and reverently 
pursued, will certainly assist in guiding us to the explanation of the 
growth of mythology. If mythology is, as we think it appears on 
closer investigation to be, a stage in the progress of thought, we 


most consider this advancement in relation to the instrument of 
thought. But we must repeat the principle that we laid down at the 
outset of this chapter, when speaking of the relation of language and 
its forms to the personal conception of nature, that polynomyny must 
be subordinate to mental conception, in the production of what are 
called secondary myths, even as verbal form was subordinate to the 
mental idea which generated primary myths. These secondary myths 
are in reality ordinary natural experiences, with a few personifica- 
tions dropped, or these personifications generalised over a series of re- 
lated phenomena. This could not possibly take place without a great 
modification in the language, and this linguistic change would, in 
turn, give an impetus to the more general view of life and the more 
precise conclusions formulated in these early days, as specific deities 
operating in special regions. There is a larger comparison, and 
a more minute observation of nature, in these secondary myths ; 
but we are still in the personal, half poetic, era of thought ; 
they stand to us as representative of a transitional state in this 
peculiar mode of man's relation to the external world. They are an 
onward step in science, about which religious instincts by and by 
played in such a manner as to conceal in some measure the original 
meanings to the consciousness of succeeding times, and not purely 
theological generalisations. These movements, we shall afterwards see, 
reached generalisations of greater comprehensiveness when the order 
of the gods culminated in one who was supreme in this kosmical 

It requires an effort for men living in the present day vividly to 
conceive such a condition of things. It is only to be realised by such 
a clear perception of the early consciousness as comparative mytho- 
logy and ethnic religions, along with the psychological manifest- 
ations of childhood, may in some measure help us to acquire. Nor 
must a careful consideration of the process of thought-building, 
through the medium of language, be neglected. The gradual 
development of the generation of the gods, in which form the early 
researches and common experiences of men were generally embodied, 
helps to show us the light that actually came from nature to the 
human spirit when men first faced it wistfully. It differs, I am 
convinced, from the light that comes at the present day through 
science from the same source, only by being concretely represented 
in the first form and more or less abstractly in the second, and, in 
addition to this, by the tendency, natural in earlier times, to what 
I have called indeterminateness and confusion of the personal with 


the impersonal, which is part of the result of concrete represen- 

This explanation is not to be confounded with what has been 
called Comte's law. It is as distinct from this law as it is from 
the theory that would explain early history by the supposition that 
Divine knowledge was actually perceived through observation of 
nature. The same thing may be said of Comte's law that has been 
said of the philological laws, that it is much too precise and definite 
and one sided, to be natural, and, in fact, has history and scientific 
development against it. Nowhere in the whole course of the growth 
of science, from its earliest form, in the shape of mere practical 
knowledge, do we, as has been observed, and as the natural exercise 
of mental life will teach, find indications of the three different 
methods of investigating nature mentioned by Comte. There could 
have been no natural dependence of the various stages in the 
evolution of science, on Comte's supposition. We cannot find the 
transition between the theological and metaphysical, nor between 
the metaphysical and positive ; and as little can we see how the 
transition could be made from the one to the other, and the results 
be carried forward, if the methods were so much opposed as they 
have been represented. Indeed, all the stages which Comte dis- 
tinguishes and differentiates as various methods are found histori- 
cally co-existing. The view here taken is that which appears agree- 
able to the facts presented for explanation, and in harmony with 
the natural course of thought, and the known growth of science, 
viz., that there has been one method of investigating nature, which, 
as might have been anticipated, was variously successful according 
to the experiences of men in different ages, but which in principle 
was essentially the same at all times. The law of Comte can only 
be accepted as a compact manner of stating the narrower and wider 
generalisations, given in more or less concrete and personal repre- 
sentations of natural occurrences presented to the sense experience 
of man, in proportion as groups of these experiences became assimi- 
lated by associative experience under a more embracing explanation. 



44 The world by wisdom knew not God." 

The sphere of the visible world, which has been constantly embracing 
man and which has formed his conscious experience in all ages, may 
be called a revelation, if we so please ; bat it is not a revelation in the 
sense in whioh that term is usually employed. Revelation, as com- 
monly understood, is the mode of communicating a form of truth 
whioh cannot, it is supposed, be learned from the external world. The 
revelations sometimes spoken of as having been received through 
nature, more nearly resemble incipient forms of science, deified, as we 
now say. But it may be asked, how did these forms of truth first 
become deified P And here we meet with that constantly recurring 
obstacle in our researches of past life and thought — the difficulty of 
reading the conceptions of former times through language. The 
words expressive of the prof oundest truths in religion, like the words 
employed for the ordinary experiences of life, gain or lose in con- 
notation, or both gain and lose by the lapse of time. In asking a 
question like the one now proposed, we are not to be held bound to 
account for all that is included in the modern conception of deity. 
If we carefully construe to ourselves the import of this idea, as it 
was understood by man in the mythological period of which I have 
spoken, we shall see that this conception, which is to us one of ex- 
ceeding complexity, was in the mythological stage one of great 
simplicity. Worship, which has been always connected with this 
idea as the external expression of the internal thought or feeling, 
may have been, whether in fetish or idol worship, a mere supersti- 
tious growth upon a very simple and innocent practice. From what 
we know of the habits of savage tribes, these objects or figures seem 
to be regarded as symbolical representations of kosmical conception, 
or as the temporary habitation of the spirit or life or power of some 
natural force ; kosmical conception being, as we have seen, in this 
less abstract age, necessarily regarded as personal. From this personal 
view of nature men soon came to consider it as cruel or kind in its 
action towards them, and this gave rise to the widespread dualism 


in worship ; a dualism whose fundamental idea was purely kosmical 
to begin with, and into which other relations, such as moral and 
spiritual, may have entered at a mnch later period. We have still 
this kosmical starting point preserved in the expressions we use, 
with altered meanings, for spiritual and moral goodness and evil ; 
these are traceable to sensible ideas — they bear upon them the marks 
of their physical origin. 

The attitude assumed by men towards these personified physical 
forces, was naturally and by degrees, one of worship, dictated partly 
by fear and partly by affection. But the practice of sometimes 
punishing these artificial objects by whipping, pricking, and even 
banishing them for faithlessness to their promises, or by throwing 
them in the mud in fits of disappointment, shows that worship had 
not all at once attained persistence, and that the reverence was 
hardly what we mean by Divine, but rather a fluctuating personal 
regard. It does not accord with the feelings that have place in 
veneration, to consider the figures that are thus defaced and repaired 
as anything more than a kind of charm, which by long habit, and 
more or less constant association, have gained a tolerably consistent 
regard and respect, broken by temporary fits of dislike. 

These primitive minds undoubtedly imagine their fetish charm, as 
they imagine everything else, to be tenanted by a personal being ; 
the reflection, as we have seen, of their own inner feelings. We 
fail very much through modern civilisation to enter into the spirit 
that distinguishes this early cultus, and to understand its monitions 
from the material world. We require to be constantly on our 
guard against judging this age of the childhood of man exactly by 
our self-conscious life, and applying our present theories, without 
modification, to its distinctive manifestations. Dreams have been 
supposed to account for this phase of human thought and feeling, 
and very likely they did operate in strengthening other impressions. 
The impressions, however, are first made in waking moments. We 
have yet amid the grander and stiller forms of nature a vague sense 
of intangibility, immateriality, — of what we now sometimes call 
sanctity, — of something "far more deeply interfused," and which no 
amount of scientific observation or nice and accurate discrimination of 
sensible phenomena can gainsay or affirm. We are fast receding, it 
is true, from this living recognition of nature ; we have little room 
in our modern scientific work for undefined old-world imaginings 
such as these ; analysis, tangible and visible investigation, banish all 
this inborn sense of that which appears to be neither tangible nor 

c 2 


visible, as not coming within the range of oar method of cognising 
things. Our nearest approach to this is the middle ground between 
the extremes of former and present times, occupied by poetry, in so 
far as this is the resignation of the spirit or mind in sensitivity, to 
the united impression of the r6 nav — to what appears to one in this 
attitude of mind to be the realised presence of a spirit in the uni- 
verse, resulting from the conjoined action of the great immensity of 
being, which crushes necessarily the individual and isolated faculty 
of perception, and for a time leaves no place for analysis and par- 
ticular observation, but bears in npon the mind a sense of person- 
ality commensurate with the vastness; and thus imparts to the 
whole sum of things such a nnity, and life in this unity, as no 
minute investigation of causes can comprehend. It was something 
resembling this impression that the primitive man felt in the solitudes 
of nature ; and there is nothing to wonder at in the apparent 
spiritual, or rather superhuman element which appeared to him 
to be present in it, both in the whole, and in its parts. We do 
not now, unless in artificial and rhetorical language, speak of the 
spirit of a wood or the genius of a place, although there was un- 
questionably a time when men honestly spoke of such things. We 
would not now talk, far less pray, to a stone or a piece of wood ; 
but who, even in what we now call our higher culture, is not some- 
times filled with awe before an imposing natural spectacle, or lifted 
out of himself, as we say, by the dread silences of nature, her calms, 
her terrible beauty, — and forced to let the pagan soul within him 
speak and worship ? The deification of natural objects, as it is 
called, may thus be, partially at least, explained on the mythico- 
scientific hypothesis. It would then be a result of the perception of 
nature peculiar to a stage in mental development. Half-awakened 
spiritual instincts no doubt might, under this form, be unconsciously 
aspiring to objects that could alone satisfy them ; but the pure form 
of the Divine and spiritual God, as we conceive God, was not 
revealed to them in the way I have described. 

Physical order even, which in our times has been much relied on 
by a certain class of minds, for communications of a spiritual nature, 
or for proofs thereof, has been lately felt to be a very doubtful 
means of arriving at spiritual facts. As a proof, it is at best one 
after the fact, and not the source or one of the sources of the 
evidence. All the intercourse that exists between man and the 
outer world in the first instance, and apart from an illuminated 
spiritual life, and those occasional vague feelings which I have 


described, is a sense-given experience: the idea of God has no 
place in it ; and, as a consequence, has no place in pnre science. It 
is very probable, as we shall afterwards learn, that the visible 
creation and the revelation of the invisible bear an analogy to each 
other; bat instead of going through kosmical order to spiritual 
intelligence, the proper course for us is to pass from spiritual 
intelligence to kosmical order. It is true that tbe world-creation is 
a necessary prelude, just as we shall find other things presupposed 
in any given revelation. As we are constituted, some platform is 
needed on which to operate. But those who have the invisible 
historic creation of the spiritual world need never attempt to 
construct the same from the material which external nature alone 
supplies. If they do, they will introduce into their argument much 
that is irrelevant. For if they do not introduce this irrelevant 
matter, how comes it that they get so much more out of their argu- 
ment than was formerly obtained ? If modern theism, for instance, 
is purer and higher, is it not by some equivocation in the terms ? 
Theism, as held by many at present, is no longer purely so, bat is 
mingled with Christian conceptions. Unmixed theism of the nine- 
teenth century would neither be more nor less than a wide general- 
isation of the kosmical revelation of the early mind ; and when 
closely interrogated, and stripped of that which does Dot properly 
belong to it, we shall find the same fundamental characteristics 
distinguishing both. The idea of law, and the conception of design, 
cannot of themselves give us the idea of a Divine Will working 
behind all phenomena. The ancient mind did not really rise above 
a material or indefinite efficient antecedent more or less personified, 
and the modern view, apart from revelation, is at its root the very 
same. We have not even lost the personification entirely. The 
idea of cause, which is such a stumbling-block in science and 
philosophy, is a remnant of this personality formerly seen in 
nature — a projection of internal experiences into external pheno- 
mena analogically resembling these experiences. The arguments 
often urged in support of the idea of causation are in fact derived 
from the feelings of intelligent life ; the argument for design is no less 
drawn from the- same sphere of life. These two fundamental posi- 
tions of the theist are thus in spirit, and in a great measure in form 
and substance, equivalent to the views of a rude state of civilisation. 
On more minute consideration it will be found that we have not 
altogether severed ourselves from our antecedents. Were psycholo- 
gists in their analysis of the idea of cause, to inquire into the origin 


and history of the conception in the early stage of thought noticed 
in the last chapter, they would find that it is largely a survival 
of the mode of representation of external facts prevalent among 
children and savages — the transference of the personal experiences 
of volitional and intelligent life to objects that have neither. The 
answer that is sometimes given to this is in reality no answer at all. 
It has been said, for example, by Sir William Hamilton to be 
refuted by the consideration that between the overt act of corporeal 
movement, of which we are cognisant, and the internal act of mental 
determination, of which we are also cognisant, there intervene a 
numerous series of intermediate agencies, of which we have no 
knowledge, and, consequently, that we can have no consciousness of 
any causal connection between the extreme links of this chain — the 
volition to move and the limb moving. As a reply to a particular 
philosophical theory of causation this may be accepted as sufficient ; 
but it misses the main point in regard to the conception of cause in 
itself considered. In the first place, it is an application of the 
observations of a matured consciousness to the infancy of mental 
experience. Hundreds of conceptions vulgarly believed, and ori- 
ginating in a rude state of life and society, have been dissipated 
as opposed to facts well observed ; but these unanswerable conclu- 
sions of exact science do not in the least affect the conceptions as 
psychological phenomena to be accounted for : the mental law that 
produced the belief, is a separate matter from the belief itself, 
as correct or incorrect to fact. Nor is it only wrong as being the 
application of experience in one phase of society, to test experience 
in another, and very different phase ; it is, in the second place, erron- 
eousas a theory. If, as the objector urges, the two factors of which 
we are alone conscious, be the first and last numbers of a series, 
whose intermediate links, however numerous, are entirely without 
our knowledge, would not, beyond question, a connection be estab- 
lished in the mind between these conscious links, volition and bodily 
movements ? If we are not conscious of the mediated motions of 
nerves and muscles, and if, as was the case, observation had not 
discovered these intervening motions, the uncritical mind would 
inevitably form its conception of changes effected by itself, without 
consideration of the intervening causes and effects actually operative, 
but unfelt and unknown. This was really done, and is yet done, by 
untutored minds. The primitive theory of causation was complete 
when the explanation of change, where persons were concerned, was 
extended to ordinary events without apparent personality, which I 


hare already had occasion to notice as peculiar to all early efforts 
to account for occurrences various, indeed, in character, but which 
were united by the common external resemblance of change. 

Notwithstanding the evident genesis of this notion, it is held by 
some metaphysicians to be given in thought ; but the idea of causa- 
tion given in the thought of the metaphysician, if he will investigate 
it, instead of starting with the assumption that it is simple, known 
not as a corollary, but as a postulate of phenomena, will be found 
to be the abstract form of the concrete representation of an earlier 
stage of thought. The stationariness of the idea of cause is some- 
times put forward as proof of the fact of its being given in thought. 
But this stationariness of the conception, if historically considered, 
will be seen to be not so much in the idea of causation as in the 
mere word. The expression has stood as a symbol employed in 
very different epochs of scientific development, but symbolising very 
different things at different times. It first formulated the volitional 
theory of the relation of external phenomena ; it was then carried up 
into the larger generalisation of the metaphysical theory, and by a 
limitation of its signification is now retained as a useful expression 
in the scientific theory, or, as some prefer to call it, the positive 
theory. The idea of cause, like the actual globe on which we live, 
while to all appearance fixed, has been constantly changing, as a 
general glance at modern thought might alone lead one to believe. 
Although the theist has raised his object of worship as he himself 
has risen in scientific attainments, his conception of what he oalls the 
Deity derived from nature alone, is still a God of might and power 
like that of the ancients. For a Deity with more or less sublimated 
physical strength, the theist of our time has substituted one whose 
characteristic is more nearly that of a supreme intellectual power. 
The ground idea is still the embodiment of what, at each period, is 
considered the highest power, and has a generalisation proportioned 
to the range of the prevalent inductive faculty. The name of this 
Being is the same in both cases, the Omnipotent j men's notions 
of what is omnipotent alone being changed more and more from 
the physical to the intellectual. The God of wisdom, which our 
theists have enthroned, is simply the expression of the characteristic 
of present mental tendencies, as the Deity of earlier times was the 
expression of the tendency of primitive life. Our theism may be 
much more determinate and distinct from pure scientific thought 
than that of the indeterminate period of earlier times, but the 
starting point is the same. 


This starting point is in the phenomena of the external world in 
relation to man. Both ancients and moderns are observers of 
natnre, the moderns more than the ancients. From experiences 
arising ont of the multiform objects aronnd them both have drawn 
their notion of deity in the pare theistic sense ; bnt modern culture 
has given a greater degree of consistency to the theistic idea. It 
has lifted it out of a concrete humanistic form into that of an 
abstract intellectual one. This has been merely the Tesult of our 
changed attitude towards the phenomena presented to us. This 
higher abstraction has reacted on the original desire to investigate 
and explain the causes and concurrences of events, and has led to 
yet higher abstractions. We have the fullest manifestation of this 
type of mind in the intellectual life of the present day, as it faces 
the vast number of interesting phenomena that everywhere meet it, 
and endeavours to bring them under a comprehensive law. It is 
under this impulse that astronomers at once embrace fuller particu- 
lars and reduce them to their ultimate explanatory laws; that 
geologists pursue their patient researches, and enrich the common 
stock of truth out of the records of unknown ages, stored away in 
the great register kept in the bosom of the earth and written by the 
unerring hand of nature. It is in obedience to the same modern 
spirit that inquirers in the social or individual phase of human life 
seek to know all that can be known, and to bring this under the 
widest generalisation. 

The highest generalisation in any of the branches of inquiry or in 
all combined is no more than a generalisation of science. It is a mis- 
take of theists to say, as they sometimes have said, that this gener- 
alisation, whether they translate it into a creative might, a supreme 
mechanist, an intellectual, volitional, or other force, is God. It is 
purely an ordinary abstraction of science, that a certain kind of 
reverent mythico-scientific mind projects from the works of nature, 
to keep the machine in operation and to satisfy a craving to worship 
something. Some of these generalisations, it is true, give us awful 
conceptions of power, of endless ages in which this enduring force 
manifested itself ; but when we know these and kindred notions, we 
have not come nearer the strict knowledge of God. Mr. Martineau, 
in some remarks on Comte, exhibits the tendency I am speaking 
of, very markedly. He is arguing against Comte's objection to the 
supposition of final causes, on the ground that phenomena can be 
accounted for by mechanical laws, and remarks that physical force 
does not exclude volition. Mr. Martineau formulates the problem 


in celestial physics as follows, — if a fixed impulse be given and 
mutual attraction constantly present, the motions observed in our 
system would follow. So, however, they would, he concludes, if 
willed by omnipotent Intelligence. The only difference, he holds, 
between these representations being, that the composition of forces 
is a mere artificial device, treating as plural a spring of motion, which, 
like our own volition to a given muscular action, is really simple ; 
the plurality is, therefore, no real plurality, but a contrivance for 
getting phenomena under the dominion of the calculus. He main- 
tains accordingly, that, if there be complexity, it is only in the mode 
of execution, and not in origination. Thus the composite doctrine, 
he remarks, shows its fictitious character where volitional origination 
is an indisputable fact. If real, he repeats, it is only executively 
so ; and an instrumental medium of the Divine will. Hypothetical 
conception of the Newtonian forces, does not, he thinks, exclude 
primary causation of the Divine will. 

One is startled, even in metaphysical thinking, where one perhaps 
should make up one's mind never to be startled at anything, at 
finding such decided marks of the origin of our conceptions of 
natural phenomena in the personal epoch of thought, in the state- 
ment that " the composition of forces is a device treating as plural 
a spring of motion like our volition." But this is less astonishing 
than to find Sir John Herschel accrediting a similar representation. 
Arguing, in an article on Humboldt's Kosmos, against the idea of 
the frame of nature being a piece of mechanism, he says, " but will 
admitted into any part of such a system destroys the whole of it. 
The blind, unintelligent portions of the mechanism must be invested 
with the power of conforming themselves to that will, as to the 
original impulse which set the whole in motion ; and how are we 
then to distinguish between these evolutions, which result from a will 
of which we are conscious, and those, which, for aught we know, 
may be continually resulting from a will continually in action, 
though concealed from our knowledge and perception ? " 

It is plainly possible in this arbitrary fashion to admit any quali- 
fying influence into any part of such a system as that of nature, and 
imaginatively to destroy the whole of it. It is not a question of 
admissions, but notoriously one of experiences. If this will, there- 
fore, be admitted into the system, although acting without our 
knowledge and perception, and that, even by those who for the sake 
of their argument thus admit it in a probable way only, it is simply 
an illustration of the tenacity with which pervading sentiments and 


opinions cling to mankind, and are handed down to succeeding 
times as unquestionable truths, apart altogether from their cor- 
rectness or incorrectness. Neither Sir John Herschel nor Mr. 
Martineau .can, with any propriety, be said, in such statements as I 
have given, to be speaking from their own experiences of nature. 
When Mr. Martineau can put his finger upon the one "spring of 
motion like our volition," it will be time to think of giving up the 
device of treating this as a composition of forces. Until then, I 
suspect that those against whom Mr. Martineau argues will re- 
taliate by saying, that his idea of a spring of motion like our 
volition is a metaphysical device treating, as singular, forces that 
according to all experience are compound. The application, without 
apparent limitation, of the analogies of personal and volitional life 
to the external world and its phenomena so plain in the theistic 
argument of Mr. Martineau renders it less valuable than it other- 
wise would have been. We are made to feel that the physicist at 
least keeps to his actual experiences, and that the theist is drawing 
largely on his imagination. At one time, for example, we are told 
that the composition of forces, in the illustration given above, is 
simply a convenient form of stating what is uncompounded ; and in 
the next clause, that if this be complexity, which it seems is after 
all most likely, this complexity is in execution not in origination. 
But no natural philosopher in the present day ever affects, so far as 
I am aware, to take cognisance of anything else than sensible phe- 
nomena ; and until the originating primal motion is evidenced to his 
perceptions like these so-called instrumental media, he has some rea- 
son to consider this wide leap from many forces to one to be but a 
quasi-simplioity, and a mere artificial device for getting phenomena 
under the dominion of the theistic conception. This mode of progress- 
ing to unity is wholly unsupported by the facts of experience. We 
see many causes converging into fewer, and it may really be, that the 
many do not exclude the one ; only the complete convergence from 
the kosmical side must at present be the mere effort of imagination 
— an effort quite as likely as otherwise to be as untrue to fact, as was 
the early exercise of imagination on scientific observation. It is not 
in this way that the spiritual — the Divine in any Bhape, can be made 
known or even proved to man. This is not what the most correct ob- 
servers draw from the surrounding world. If the correlation of forces 
were proved beyond all doubt, even into the region of mental life 
and one force capable of being postulated in science, it would be no 
fair corollary from such a result to say that this force was Divine. 


Sir John Herschel, in the article already mentioned, thinks 
differently. He says that the mind, in the contemplation of laws 
operating as causes, is " led back in the chain of causation through 
the phenomena of organised life, to powers of a higher order, which 
connecting themselves with the idea of will, involves the conception 
of intelligence, from which we are necessarily led to infer design, 
and from design find ourselves forced on the conclusion of motive ; " 
and he says further, " it is thus, and thus only, that the contem- 
plation of nature can be said to lead us up by legitimate induction 
to its Author." There is in this statement an erroneous conception 
of the psychological origin of the idea of causation. He thinks that 
it is gained in our experiences in organised life, is thereafter con- 
nected with the idea of will and intelligence, and so on ; when on the 
contrary, as I have already had occasion to point out more in 
detail, it is the result of our volitional experiences and those of 
others projected into an impersonal sphere. This erroneous con- 
ception leads him again into an exaggerated opposition towards 
what he designates positive philosophy. He holds as against this 
philosophy, which he says repudiates causation, and with it all that 
may be called explanation of natural phenomenon, that in physics, 
at least, the inquiry into causes is philosophy, and that nothing else 
is so; and gives as an illustration the reference to force as a cause of 
planetary motions, which he considers more than a mere generalisa- 
tion of law. But the conception of force in planetary motion is, like 
the same conception in terrestrial motion, the mere antecedent of a 
consequent, and has not, to the scientific mind, a relation to the 
cause of primitive times. This is in reality afterwards expressed 
by the same writer in language to which no positive philosopher 
would object : "the craving of the philosophic mind is for explana- 
tion; that is, for the breaking up of complex phenomena into familiar 

It should also be noticed that the theist introduces into his 
induction through an imaginary chain of causation, whose con- 
tinuity is unbroken, truth from another sphere. But to confound 
in this manner different spheres of experience, is, at the present 
stage of thought at least, bad philosophy. The theistic reasoning 
referred to proceeds upon the unsupported hypothesis that all truth 
can be attained in one line of investigation. It is an effort, pre- 
maturely made, to bridge the chasm between scientific truth, as it 
is called, and purely spiritual truth. It inspires doubt to hear men 
argue from ascertained laws to a Person in whom they all, not may 


find, bat must find their highest explanation. A work too, we are 
often told, by those who in the same school vary the argument, 
implies a workman ; a plan speaks of a designer ; a law implies a 
lawgiver ; causation is only explicable by will ; and the only really 
efficient cause of which we can form any conception is the Divine 
will. Putting aside altogether the general objection that might be 
urged against such reasoning as this, that it is simply arguing from 
abstract words, we ought to consider whether our notion of an 
artificer exalts our idea of God ; whether that of a designer really 
elevates him to the extent that is often imagined by those who thus 
represent Him ; or whether, in short, these notions correspond to 
the phenomena they are meant to explain. It is almost demon- 
strable that this is not the way from a scientific point of view, 
which is the view of those who argue as above described, of 
exhibiting God's work in nature, as they term it. It is at best only 
some men's way of looking at God's work in nature ; but their 
way of looking at this work and God's way of accomplishing it may 
likely enough be widely separated, if they be in any way related. 

If modern science tends to show anything, and it is perhaps 
premature to say positively that it does show anything regarding 
the correct mode of conceiving the universe as a whole, it appears 
to indicate that the idea of design, as generally explained, is 
not a perfectly adequate idea. There is far less intention, humanly 
speaking, in nature and history than is generally taken for granted 
in the theory of design. Evolution or growth seems to come 
nearer the reality than purpose. The explanation by design is very 
often applied in a somewhat similar manner to works of human 
genius, and not always with manifest aptness. Critics are now and 
then explicit and full in their assertions of how Shakspeare, for 
example, in certain positions and with given characters proceeded on 
some supposed preconceived plan. Our great novelists are likewise 
spoken of as having gone through the mental processes that a care- 
ful and attentive reader thinks he perceives evident in the execution 
of their works. Sculptors and painters may sometimes hear similar 
principles of action assigned to them in the execution of the best 
works of their chisel and pencil, and in many cases anything like 
direct purpose and design is as far from being the guiding and 
formative spirit of their works throughout as it is from being the 
expression of the agency that moulds the clouds of heaven into 
their marvellous shape, and steeps them in the most varied and 
harmonious colourings. Moliere, I feel certain, only expressed the 


bare truth, when he said of his " Misanthrope " that he scarcely 
knew what he meant by his creation ; and the recent life of Dickens 
is psychologically interesting, as showing the undesigned, and to 
the author himself unexpected, turns in his work, as it grew under 
his hands. 

A town or a government appears to be, more than most things, 
the result of direct foresight. It consorts well with the common no- 
tion of design to regard them as pre-determined products of human 
purpose, and the outcome of intelligent calculation and intention, 
and yet the gradual and adhesive addition in the formation of each 
of these institutions, if intimately traced, will be found to be a sim- 
ple growth, fostered and developed by many influences beyond the 
calculation of human intelligence. They are each the result of 
forces that operate as unconsciously as those that are active in other 
orders of life, where we unhesitatingly apply the terms growth and 
development. In the case of a town now covering miles of ground, 
a castle planted long ago might bring some religious establishment 
to that corner of a country, and round this a little community would 
grow up. Or in another case, a river flows lazily, like other rivers, 
through some quiet meadow, and a village, accidentally formed on 
one of its banks, grows through the attraction of life and the as- 
similating and centralising power of trade, and becomes the metro- 
polis of an empire, or of the world. And nature, studied in those 
sciences which may be called historical is, like human history and 
human institutions, an endless growth — an evolution whose first 
germ contains not so much the stamp of design as the impress of 
development. We do not need to lay stress again on the statement 
already made when reviewing the idea of causation in regard to 
the phenomena of the external world, that the idea of design applied 
to these phenomena, like the idea of causation similarly applied, 
arises from the introduction of a conception belonging to one sphere 
of experience into that of another. 

Your theistic worshippers, like their primitive ancestors, in spirit 
at least, admire a watchmaker, and through his means they rise to 
the grand conception of the universal Watchmaker, who made the 
great world-chronometer, and winds it up, and keeps it going, and has 
hung it in space that men might puzzle over it, and after a time of 
anxious investigation and severe speculation rise from the work to 
the Workman. Chemical compounds also speak to such a mind as 
this of an almighty Chemist working in His great laboratory ; zoo- 
logy represents Him engrossed with more details and in less dignified 


circumstances : each division of the sciences is traced up to Him — 
its 'patron and founder. But this intellectual abstraction which, 
theism or science has helped to create for its supreme mental satis- 
faction or adoration, and as the representative of its highest induc- 
tion, is not God. The method, which the theist takes, of realising 
this last result of knowledge is not the method, as we shall after- 
wards point out, that the Revealer Himself of spiritual truth adopted 
in His teaching. The principle is barren in its result, both as seen 
in its own development and as witnessed in its practical influence 
upon men around us, and upon those in former times already men- 
tioned. The god thus postulated or attempted to be demonstrated 
to our intellects is no object for universal worship and reverence, as 
the true God must ever be. He is merely the metaphysical entity 
of the quasi-scientific mind, and capable of reverence and adoration 
only by such a mind. A god like this can no more be supposed to 
exist as a personality than the law of gravity for example can be 
supposed to exist as such. For what is he really P Is he not an 
attempted explanation of that and other laws, an arbitrary unifica- 
tion of multiform forces P Is he not the outcome of a futile exercise 
of our mental power endeavouring, not only to explain the modes of 
action of the different objects that meet us everywhere, but to ex- 
plain the higher modes of action, or the highest law which includes 
them all P This is, in itself, an excusable effort, and in its proper way 
it may yet be crowned with success ; at least, it is the goal to which 
all generalisations are moving : the acceptance, however, of the result 
of this effort as a being fit for Divine honours, is not so excusable. 
This last result can be no other than the ultimate law. If it be an 
induction from nature, and if it rest upon nature's operations as 
given in sensible experience, it can only be the expression that stands 
as the equivalent for the rational explanation of all phenomena. But 
if you accept the ultimate explanation or law as worthy of Divine 
homage — as commanding universal adoration, what hinders you from 
worshipping the lower explanations — the intermediate and secon- 
dary laws P And if you adore the laws, what prevents you from 
bowing before the multiplied objects which make up these laws — 
from which these laws are inferred P If we prostrate ourselves be- 
fore the one inclusive law that runs through all nature, why should 
we not kneel, as did our rude progenitors, before each object that 
we see P For if the whole be Divine, each component part must 
share its character ; if the law be God, the phenomena — the mani- 
festations of that law, are likewise gods : and thus we come, in a 


singular, but we believe legitimate, manner back to the earliest and 
most primitive of all worships, the worship of nature in all her 
forms — her woods, her hills, her streams, her seas, and stars, and 




" Every object is a window through which we may look into infinitude itself." 

The opinions noticed in the previous chapter have been long held 
by a certain class of minds with singular tenacity. They hare been 
honoured with the name of divine philosophy by no less an authority 
than Bacon, who considered that through this philosophy the rudi- 
ments of knowledge concerning God were to be obtained. Even in 
Bacon's day, however, enough had been said and written on the sub- 
ject to lead him to warn men of the danger of excess in this divine 
philosophy or natural theology, as prejudicial to religion and philo- 
sophy alike; making heretical religion and fabulous philosophy, or, 
what we can now say, making a modern mythology. In a sense it 
is true that the universe is a Divine vision * and that reason in Ster- 
ling's acceptation of that term, peculiar to Coleridge's mode of thought, 
as the opposite of the sensuous understanding, is the inspired organ 
for beholding it. The objects of nature tell something of God, bat 
they do not tell this to every one. This is simply a matter of fact. 
To a man like the Hebrew poet " the heavens declare the glory of 
God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork; day uttereth speech 
unto day : and night unto night sheweth knowledge : " but the utter- 
ance and the unfolding here spoken of are not to the intellect in man. 
These voices may " go through all the earth," but the voices are not 
heard by all, neither are they, when heard, the voices of abstract laws. 
They are spiritual voices, which no law of man's formulating can 
force from nature, but which will be heard within the soul, provided 
the soul be strung to the higher spiritual harmonies, and not hemmed 
in by the vesture of a sensible or merely intellectual life. 

"Who can by searching find out GodP" is the unanswerable 
interrogation marked on the attempts of theistic thinkers. A rough 
answer, a direct negative in fact, has been given by many in all 
times: an answer which every one anxious for the complete 
development of our nature must regret, since the reply is dis- 
astrous both to intellectual and religious life ; it has been elicited, 

• John Sterling. 


however, by well-meaning theists, who imagine that their proof is 
divinely adapted for the conviction of atheists, while it has turned 
out to have exactly the opposite effect. The denial is unfortunate 
for another reason. It gives to science and pare intellectual effort 
a false position, and to religion an apparent antagonism to science. 
It has forced the one, on hostile intent, into the territory of the other, 
and the operations of both in these foreign fields have been neither 
profitable nor pleasant. Men of a religious spirit have long looked 
with suspicion on the rapid advancement of scientific inquiry, and 
begin to tremble lest the time may actually arrive when there shall 
be nothing to explain. Scientific men have long regarded with 
mingled fear and pity the obstructive attitude of theological minds. 
The outcry against secondary causes and fearless probing of the 
earth and scanning of the heavens has been answered by the 
protest, not less loud, against the barrenness of the idea of the 

We shall see that the protest is hasty, and as much without 
reason as the outcry, produced mainly by the theistic view of nature, 
which has sunk so deeply into men's minds as to lead them to the 
belief that because science seeks more and more to drive causation, 
as generally understood, out of its sphere, that, therefore, God is 
driven out of the universe which He has made. The Divine light 
in the world, however, never shone through the observations of 
science taken by itself. Its beams came through another channel. 
It was the religious consciousness of man that felt " the invisible 
things" of God to be shadowed forth "by the things that are 
made." The world pointed always to something behind itself, to 
the Divine that was in it, and in all nature. It is, therefore, what 
is to be expected — a thing the spiritual consciousness could anti- 
cipate, when we are told " that the dissecting knife has never yet 
laid bare a soul to the glance of the anatomist, nor the sweep of a 
telescope brought a God within the astronomical vision." The 
conclusion alone drawn from this is wrong and unwarrantable, viz., 
that these things do not exist It might at least be possible 
to think that these objects are not thus made known to us. It 
may as well be urged, as indeed we think it has been, that the 
thoughts of other men are non-existent because in themselves in- 
visible to the bodily eye, as that the soul of man and the being of 
God are fancies, because anatomy and astronomy do not include 
them in their facts of observation. No science or method of in- 
quiry can trespass beyond its own sphere and declare what is, and 



what, is not, possible elsewhere. The power of deciphering natural 
laws, and explaining the appearances of sensible things, and foretell- 
ing with unerring certainty their occurrences in distant time, is 
invaluable; but to any candid mind it must appear to be dearly 
bought by the loss of vision of the spiritual world, and comprehension 
of its higher laws and faith in its ultimate triumph, which inspired 
the spirits of those men in whom the spiritual consciousness was 
evolved of old. And it is all the worse when it is considered that this 
high price, or in feet any price, is altogether unnecessary. There is 
nothing contradictory in the notion of a rigid and scientific know- 
ledge and study of the outward, sensible world and a spiritual 
realisation of the relation of God to the world — such a realisation, 
for example, as we have given us in the Jewish conception of the 
Divine in nature. That is, however, wholly different from the modern 
theistic conception. It is a light upon the kosmos, and is free 
from those merely sensible limitations, which are so characteristic 
of the last induction of generalised experience. In so speaking, I 
am far from saying that the Jewish conception was not conditioned, 
but its conditions were those limitations of the spiritual nature that 
necessarily accompany its imperfect development. The clearer 
enunciations of the Divine revelation in history and nature, shaping 
themselves from time to time among the Jews, were consequent on 
growing powers of spiritual perception, and are the natural results of 
advanced spiritual life and nearer realisation of God, and not 
dependent on increased sensible observation of the external world 
for scientific purposes and by scientific methods. The fundamental 
idea of the Hebrew literature and the peculiar feature of the Jewish 
mind is its clear consciousness of the Divine everywhere. The Spirit 
that moved upon the waters at the beginning was really a cognition 
by the spiritual in man, and not a thought given through the dis- 
covery of more or less regularity in the world of nature, and through 
the prosecution of causes to the end of the unbroken series. This 
idea is opposed to the modern conception, and to pagan notions of 
the Divine in nature. One of the unknown Hebrew poets hits off 
this distinctive origin of the idea in the Hebrew consciousness, when 
he replies in answer to the question, "Where shall wisdom be found? " 
" The depth saith, It is not in me." Their kosmogony is not, in the 
first place at least, an embryonic stage of science; its first word never 
touches the earth, it descends from heaven. God is the explanation 
of creation, and not creation the explanation of God. The Divine, 
with the Hebrews, shines into the darkness of the sensible, and makes 


it fall of its own glory ; the sensible thereafter becomes for them re- 
plete with the splendour and meaning of what is beyond sense. It 
was probably this that Jean Paul meant by his remark, that " the 
first leaf of the Mosaic document has more weight than all the 
folios of physicists and philosophers ; " and yet the theologian labours 
at a reconciliation of this poem with the utterances of physicists 
and philosophers. 

The Divine, which men have striven to see through the visible 
alone, has ever been an inexplicable mystery — the last fact that 
resists analysis. But the Divine which is revealed to the Hebrew con- 
sciousness is no such postulate of mental impotence, but is rather 
the key to unlock mysteries ; it is the germ of the spiritual drama 
that is gradually developed in the midst of the visible and material 
creation. At first, as might be expected, the knowledge of this great 
spiritual fact was dim, but it ultimately became clearer, and is no- 
where represented by the writers of the Bible as beyond the per- 
ception of the man with powers adapted for its reception. Its 
impenetrability for all else is everywhere maintained. From the 
kosmical side "clouds and darkness " are about God. The truths con- 
cerning the spiritual either in man or nature are beyond the under- 
standing, as the faculty for combining the various sense experiences 
of life. The Jews, it will be objected, beg the whole question of 
the spiritual element in nature and man. But how can it be said 
with any reason that to start from a fact is to beg a question ? The 
spiritual consciousness has, as I have already hinted, as much right 
to begin with the fact of the Divine or supernatural, as the physical 
philosopher with the fact of the natural. The latter does not at 
each stage of advancement in thought, or with the exposition of each 
new theory, commence with a proof of the whole sphere of the 
natural. If he did so, he would never get beyond this ; for the one 
problem is, philosophically speaking, as difficult of solution as the 
other, and both seem equally, what are called, metaphysical puzzles. 
It might be well if the spiritual consciousness, assuming the super- 
natural, as physicists do the natural, proceeded to raise the science, 
or whatever form of knowledge is possible, of those facts that fall 
within its sphere. The discussion on the first term has altogether 
precluded advance in spiritual truth beyond imaginative flights. 
There has been hitherto no strict method in the discussion of the 
problems that it presents ; there is as yet no recognised organon. But 
if differences of opinion about the existence or non-existence of matter 
and the external world, and beings in that world, never hindered 

D 2 


men of science from investigating the occurrences in the natural 
world ; nay more, if those in the present day who most strenuously 
deny the possibility of knowing such things in themselves are fore- 
most in seeking to know and explain the relations of this unknown 
Something, — we are at a loss to see why the inquiry into the super- 
natural or spiritual should wait the conclusion of the dispute about 
its existence or non-existence. So far as this fundamental question 
of the spiritual is concerned, it is, if not in a better, at least in no 
worse a position than the same metaphysical problem regarding the 

The fact of larger generalisations in pure science having been 
reached by us does not altogether account for the difference between 
the view of nature held by the Jewish mind, and that held by the 
modern mind, or for the ancient mythological spirit on which 
the latter is based ; they are conceptions of nature from opposite 
sides of our being : the one from the idea of the supernatural and 
through spiritual insight, the other from the idea of the sensible and 
through intellectual forms. We are true to our mental constitution 
and its relations to sensuous experience, when we accept secondary 
laws as explanatory of the changes transpiring around us ; the Jews 
were no less true to their spiritual constitution when their writers 
recounted these as the direct doings of God. The full truth lies in 
the complement of the two truths. That which is valuable to us 
in the Jewish thought and literature is this realisation of the Divine 
action in the universe of being — an action imminent and direct. The 
cultivation and development of their spiritual consciousness enabled 
the Jews to perceive and hold fast the idea of God as a Being moving 
throughout the whole frame of things: His garment is the light, and 
with it the Almighty clothes Himself. He stretches out the heavens 
like a curtain, and in the deep layeth the beams of His chambers. 
He covered the earth with the deep as with a garment; the waters 
stood above the mountains : at His rebuke they fled, and hasted away 
at the voice of His thunder. To them the breath of nature and the 
breath of man were but the breath of the overliving God : mingling 
with surrounding elements, yet mixed with none ; using and employ- 
ing the many accompaniments of natural life, yet bound to none ; free 
as the wind of heaven that gathers clouds from the four quarters of 
the earth and builds their cumulated waters in mid-air, yet passes 
on with unimpeded swiftness through the realms of space ; free as 
the same wind that shows its presence among the curling billows 
of the sea and in the spray that wets the hanging clouds — thai 



manifests its movements in the bending forest and the waving fields, 
and yet is neither of the sea nor of the forest nor the field, but is 
in truth that spiritual breath, which since the dawn of time has sped 
with unseen wings through all the dull material universe and given 
it the semblance of that which it alone possesseth : He breathes, 
and everything is jubilant with motion; He withholds His breath, and 
death and silence reign* throughout the world. In such a conception 
we are as far from pantheism as we are from a kosmical deity. 
While there is no severance of Him from the constant operations of 
nature — for "He watereth the hills from His chambers/ 1 — the seasons 
are in His hand, the rest of man and beast, — there is no confusion 
of Him with the external world : " He commanded, and it stood fast ;" 
"He walketh upon the wings of the wind." Like our own spirits 
tenanting their bodily homes, He tenants His vast creation: in it, 
but not of it ; operating through it, yet transcending it ; speaking 
through its glories to spiritual intelligences capable of appreciating 
the language, even as man communicates himself to man ; showing 
forth the invisible spiritual splendour that is hidden from the 
merely sensible perception, even as the human soul looks out of its 
windows to a sympathetic spirit. 

I am not at present specially concerned with the science of the 
Jews. Their views of nature from the standpoint of science, as 
seen in their literature, are somewhat crude.* They had not risen 
possibly above a primitive perception of the system* of nature. It is 
quite likely that their spiritual attitude tended to restrain scientific 
observation and inquiry into the relations of ordinary sense-given 
experiences. At all events, the contrast is sufficiently marked 
between the great discoveries recently made in every branch of 
natural knowledge, and the position, so far as we understand it, of 
the Jews. Our conception of time in past eternity, for instance, by 
means of geological investigations, has been indefinitely enlarged 
space has new meanings for us since telescopic vision has enabled 

* We should remember, however, that the Jewish literature whioh has oome 
down to us, as I shall afterwards have occasion to point out, is strictly frag- 
mentary. It has been preserved for a special purpose, and this purpose necessarily 
excluded much that might have modified our opinions with regard to their acquire- 
ments in natural science. There must, for instance, have been some foundation 
for the report in 1 Kings iv. 31-33 about Solomon. Besides the composition of 
3000 proverbs and 1000 songs, he is there said to have spoken of trees, of beasts, 
and fowls, and creeping things, and fishes ; but none of this literature has been 
preserved. We know also the mere names of those he is said to have excelled 
in these branches of study. 


118 to descry the incalculable distances of world from world ; ethno- 
logical and cognate archaeological researches among the remains of 
the early progenitors of onr race have forged for us a seemingly 
interminable chain of existence, whose first links can only be dimly 
imagined, but whose extent is nearly commensurate with our 
expanding ideas of time and space. All this, however, does not 
affect in any material way the Jewish conception of the Divine in 
nature as a spiritual conception, although it may affect our notions 
of the relations between the Divine and the natural. Every truth 
has relations to every other truth, although we cannot yet, in every 
case, exhibit the relations. While, therefore, the ideas of vastness in 
time and space that have become familiar to the modern mind, may 
make us remodel to some extent our own mode of conceiving the 
Divine, they by no means compel us to dethrone the spiritual power 
that was seen to be operative in the production and elaboration of a 
world, in grandeur and immensity supposed to be infinitely below 
that which we now perceive. But while speaking thus, it must be 
remembered that we may, from the spiritual side of nature, exag- 
gerate the results of science. The expanded prospect which science 
discloses to us is an expansion in a great measure of that which in 
little was always known to man. The Divine, when felt at all, is as 
divine in a leaf as in a forest ; in one nation as in all history ; in 
one world as in millions of worlds. It should not be forgotten, 
however, that if a Being all powerful, all wise, perfect in all things, 
was perceived by spiritual discernment in the poor conception of 
a world which the Hebrew mind could form, the same faculty of 
perception will by no means think Him absent from the widen- 
ing scheme which present investigations indubitably unfold, simply 
because of the greater scheme. There is a difference in degree 
merely, and not in kind, between the early and the modern re- 
sults of science. If, therefore, a Being directing and controlling 
and revealing Himself in a comparatively temporary and sectional 
world was not thought intrusive in its governance, the spiritual 
intelligence can never consider him a meaningless fiction, or, what 
is much the same thing, an ultimate and inexplicable fact, in a 
world so boundless and incomprehensible as we now witness, and 
only because of the boundlessness and incomprehensibility. If the 
spiritual faculty felt that the Divine was behind the fiat which 
spake the visible world into existence with that beauty apparent even 
to unscientific observers, no less does it feel that the Bame nature is 
revealed in the evolution of a world, by slow and gradual and 




uniform laws, from formless and chaotic matter, into that glorious 
spectacle which we now behold with wider prospect in glittering 
stars and suns resplendent, in land and sea with all the teeming 
forms of life rising in beautiful jet simple gradation from half 
animated beings to man made in the image of his Maker. The 
spiritual conception is nowise dependent upon either the one 
kosmical theory or the other. Whatever these investigations prove 
or disprove, in themselves they can never be regarded as disproving 
the spiritual idea developed among the Hebrews, although they may 
show us that it was not by such methods that this order of ideas 
was acquired ; for the only channel through which spiritual truth 
can be made known to man is through something spiritual in him. 
From the very nature of the communication this is necessary. If 
there is a world of spirit — an unseen sphere, as it is expressed — with 
relations to our inner being, it can only be discovered to us through 
faculties appropriate to such relations. The relations of a different 
sphere cannot channel these communications, nor can we raise 
ourselves by such a ladder to heaven. The ladder ' must descend 
from heaven, and thas bring home the objects of that sphere to our 
awakened spiritual perceptions. 

The spiritual element in nature thus discerned and recorded 
by the Jews has never received that degree of attention and sys- 
tematic treatment which the subject demands. It is noticed fre- 
quently, bnt the object and its mode of cognition, and its relation to 
the spiritual elements in the Bible, how far independent of that 
revelation, and how and in what way discovered to us by it, has 
never been investigated with any approach to thoroughness. We 
all repeat — indeed, it has now become the most universal of all 
religious beliefs, probably because it is really the most general of 
religious truths, and conformable to the common experience of man : 
" The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are 
clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even 
His eternal power and Godhead." In speaking of the revelation 
through nature, it must be distinctly understood that I make no 
attempt to enter the field of the scientific observer, far less to super- 
sede his investigations. No spiritual revelation in Scripture or else- 
where, we are persuaded, can, unless by some strange and perverse 
interpretation of it, be shown to supplant such inquiries; and when 
the attempt has been made to do this, as has been too often the case 
in biblical theology, the false interpreter of Scripture has been pro- 
perly beaten off the field by the true and scientific interpreter of nature, 


— true, that is, in the limits to which he confines himself ; false he 
may be, and is, when he dogmatises regarding what is beyond these 
limits. Within the domain of observable sensible phenomena he is, 
however, right in maintaining that sensible experience alone has a 
claim to be received, and that conclusions drawn from such ex- 
perience are alone valid. This position and attitude of mind towards 
external nature need not, and does not, interfere with the spiritual 
manifestations that to a spiritual consciousness may of ten be discovered 
in these experiences, and which, as we have already shown, scientific 
observation merely as snch, if true to its method, cannot take account 
of and must not mingle with its observations. The visible, we said, 
always pointed to something behind it, shadowing forth, as Paul 
says, the invisible and Divine to the religions consciousness. This 
is apparent in the Jewish life and literature, but it is most evident, 
as is all spiritual manifestation, in the great Bevealer of the Father. 
Christ's parables may, perhaps, be taken as the type of this form of 
revealed spiritual truth as well as an illustration of the different 
spheres of the two orders of truth given in nature, and of their 
different methods. The thirteenth chapter of Matthew (parallel 
Mark iv.) contains some of these finest utterances. It is, as all have 
acknowledged who have paid any attention to the subject, a store- 
house of most valuable spiritual instruction, a rich mine of truth. 
The beauty of the surrounding scene and the eagerness of the 
expectant multitude appear, as they often did in Christ's history, to 
have unlocked the treasury of His Divine spirit, and, as it were, to 
have urged the great Teacher and Bevealer to pour forth the fulness 
of His spiritual wealth, and at the same time (by showing to others 
its source) to impart to them the means of constantly adding, by 
their own spiritual experience and observation, to what He had com- 
municated. These appear to be the results, or the intended results, 
of the parabolical teaching of Jesus. He employed this kind of 
teaching, not as an instrument of didactic communication alone, — for 
it is not simply profusion of thought that attracts us and rightly so 
to a passage such as this in the record of the life of Jesus, but in 
addition to this, and what concerns our present purpose, the essential 
spiritual element in such teaching found in the colouring of the 
thoughts or rather in their mediated channel. In His Sermon on 
the Mount there are deliverances of truth no less sublime, but the 
form peculiar to the present case is absent. Here we have, in a 
manner, the process of revelation as well as its result. In the 
Sermon on the Mount we have the result merely. 


As He sat in the boat moored near the shore of that northern 
Palestinean lake, with pictures of loveliness stretching np the slopes 
towards " the olive-crowned heights " that bent down to look into 
the clear unspotted bine, that they might see themselves reflected 
in the transparent mirror, we do not wonder that Christ, like all fine 
spiritual natures, susceptible to all pure influences, should have 
steeped His thoughts in those rare natural tints that floated through 
the sky and up the hills and over the bosom of the inland sea. 
Ever natural and vivid in His teaching, we are not surprised to find 
in such a passage of His life that fine inter-penetration of outward 
physical beauty and inner spiritual truth. But there is more than 
this in the passage. That would merely be the natural outcome ot 
a fine imaginative power. Here it is not simple imagination that is 
at work, although imagination is necessarily operative in the process. 
The scene was one no doubt of impressive natural loveliness, and 
well fitted to excite an imaginative mind ; but to that is added in 
the case of Christ a faculty of another order. To His inner eye it 
unveiled a spiritual beauty. To Him, in a measure beyond all 
others, the invisible things were plainly manifest by the things that 
are made ; the fields and trees, the harvest and the sea, became trans- 
formed beneath His touch, and were charged, — and to others now 
because they were to Him, — with all the awe, the heightened gran- 
deur, the profound expression of the unseen. To His keen spiritual 
insight the sower assumed the dread proportions of the great spirit- 
ual Husbandman ; the stately trees increased in height and spread 
their arms abroad and filled infinitude with their deepening shade, 
while unwonted sounds were heard among their leaves ; the waving 
forests of golden grain became a surging crowd of men and women 
falling before the sickle of a mysterious reaper ; the sea became the 
guardian of untold wealth, for which strange fishermen threw their 
nets into the deep. In this manner Christ poured forth lessons of 
spiritual wisdom in the warm hues of a spiritual imagination, — the 
beautiful drapery covering, but instead of concealing vividly mani- 
festing, because really an indissoluble part, of the soul of truth within. 
With perfect mastery and infinite skill, this Divine Teacher and 
spiritual Revealer shows the intimate relations, that, for every spirit- 
ually awakened consciousness, exist between the natural and the 
spiritual The outward material universe did not hide from Him 
what it hides from us, even although coming after Him, and hides so 
much as to be totally denied sometimes, — the spiritual principles 
that lie beneath and accompany its manifestations. To His spiritual 


consciousness the entire world of nature appears as the speech of the 
world of spirit. As words are to ns the expression of our thoughts 
and feelings, so sensible objects are to Him the utterance of what 
is otherwise invisible to sense. As we make signs to each other in 
order to reveal the hidden world of onr inner consciousness to 
those around us, so the great spiritual consciousness makes known 
itself to him who can receive its intimations through the signs of 
nature. For the essential feature of teaching by parables, as Christ 
taught, is that of a setting forth of inner, invisible, spiritual, things, 
by things outward and visible and natural. There must in most 
cases be a great obstacle when any one attempts to speak of spiritual 
matters to those who know little or nothing about them, and have 
small capacity for knowing them. To men who have an eye sim- 
ply for what is sensible and present, some way has to be. opened for 
the passage of what is spiritual and present too, but not discernible 
by them. Language, even, is often a hindrance and not a help to 
one who has spiritual truth to communicate, for our language is 
made for our everyday life. Oar Bpeech is perhaps the most mate- 
rial thing about us ; our words are very tenacious in their hold upon 
what is earthly. We are apt to overlook this in our repetition of 
" winged words ; " but when we consider, we shall find that language 
has an unmistakable metallic ring about it, — always the echo more or 
less of some material tone or other. It is in reality an imitation — 
often a very close and literal one, of what we see and hear and feel. 
Even at the present day, when it has reached a considerable degree 
of refinement, partly as the natural result of tear and wear, similar 
to the weathering in geology, and partly as the result of its appli- 
cation in the course of time and extended experience to express what 
is immaterial, we are carried back by association to objects that are 
thoroughly material. The language of divine science and the names 
of the gods in ethnic and all religions lead us directly from heaven 
to earth, whence in the course of ages names and gods alike have 
sprung. When we speak of any subject relating to our own mental 
or spiritual nature we employ what is, in a kind of way, a para- 
bolical mode of speech.' Now, Christ as the revealer of a spiritual 
life and experience came to tell men what they could not, on ac- 
count of a more or less darkened spiritual consciousness, find out for 
themselves. He came to speak to them of something that their 
eyes had not seen, nor their ears heard, nor their hands handled, — 
of something, therefore, which their minds could not adequately con- 
ceive. For their minds were fed, as it were, by eye and ear and 


hand from the merely visible, audible, and tangible world. He came 
thus, it is evident, to tell men about things strange to their lan- 
guage. He had spiritual things to communicate, but if He was to 
be understood at all, He must use the words men use. That appears 
at first a great obstacle. We are apt to think that this revelation 
of what was above the reach of ordinary experience — the unveiling 
of a Divine order, could only be a partial unveiling when such a 
heavy curtain was interposed. And so, perhaps, we shall find this to 
be the case. The full light of the unseen world can scarcely shine 
through the material covering in which it comes to us, not to speak 
of the dnlness of our spiritual apprehension. Indeed, Paul tells us 
"we see through a glass, darkly"; and this glass through which 
we look at spiritual splendours is, I should think, partly the material 
language through which we have to approach the subject) partly, of 
course, the sin, and the darkness that sin throws over our spiritual 
vision, — the refusal to do God's will hiding that will from us to the 
extent of our refusal. It may be that we could not look upon that 
glory face to face now — that as with darkened glass we are enabled 
to look at the sun's blaze and blench not, so only is it permitted us, 
with our weak spiritual vision, to gaze on the exceeding glory 
through a more or less darkened medium. We must, however, try 
to brighten the medium, or rather, it will of itself grow brighter and 
become adapted to our increasing strength of spiritual sight, so that 
there will not always remain the looking through, but ultimately, 
like the highest spiritual consciousness, we shall see " face to face " 
and know as we are known. "No man hath seen God ;" but He who 
"is in the bosom of the Father" is gradually fitting us for the vision, 
and also for that nearness to God so vividly expressed by being "in 
His bosom." Part of the preparation is to be found in the paraboli- 
cal teaching. Somewhat after the manner we have mentioned, it 
may be said that all speech when applied to what is spiritual is pa- 
rabolical. I must speak of these things in parables, was Christ's 
experience as a teacher of man's spiritual consciousness. 

If Christ was to be understood, even in His didactic communica- 
tions, He could only be understood by applying the words used in 
trade, amusement, common actions, to spiritual affairs. We have 
only to consider how many states of the soul Christ describes in 
language which is primarily applicable to the body ; e.g., the opening 
of the Sermon on the Mount, which is perhaps the least para- 
bolical part of His recorded teaching, is full of material sugges- 
tions. Our idea of poverty is derived from physical poverty ; the 


idea of kingdom applied to heaven has necessarily a material 
association in all our minds ; hunger and thirst used of the soul 
are, I need not say, decidedly corporeal; pureness applied to the 
heart has a similar material origin; and so of the other illustra- 
tions of spiritual facts here and elsewhere in the Bible. This, 
however, is not exactly what is meant by teaching in parables. 
Teaching spiritual things by words drawn from material things is, 
however, a near approach to it ; and inasmuch as, in this case, it is 
the current symbols of the material that are employed for the pur- 
pose of shadowing forth the realities of the immaterial, it comes very 
close to what we said was the essential feature of the parable, and 
in an advanced state of culture the two may be interchangeable. 
Teaching in parables, strictly speaking, however, is the making 
known the unseen and spiritual by visible things themselves and not 
by the mere mental copies of such things. A parable is thus a sort 
of picture of the spiritual world presented to our mental vision. It 
has the effect of a double revelation. Besides conveying to us 
spiritual facts and principles, it is the discovery to us of a new lan- 
guage by which the new truths of the unseen are made clearer. The 
parable in Christ's hands may be said to unveil to men, not only the 
truths of the new kingdom, but its language as well. In this way we 
possess through them the special knowledge of the spiritual which 
Christ taught in definite parables, and, as far as it is possible for us, 
a general knowledge of spiritual speech. And what a splendid lan- 
guage for those awakened spiritual beings who more or less fully 
understand its powerful syllables ! To what sublime spiritual truths 
does it not give utterance ! To what high regions of thought does 
it not point ! But how unutterable in our poor language must these 
truths ever be ! How impossible to frame these great thoughts in our 
small moulds ! We often witness the ineffectual efforts of childhood 
to embrace in its limited vocabulary the conceptions of manhood ; but 
how much easier a task is this for children than is the labour for us 
men to comprehend fully the spiritual in our common speech, or to 
employ that speech as the channel of Divine things ! Our language 
bears, and must always faithfully bear, if it is to be true, the impress 
of our thought ; and as our thought is bounded very much by the 
sensible, so must our expression of it labour under the same defect. 

But who can set bounds to the thought of God, or circumscribe 
His knowledge and truth and their manifestations to man ; and what 
language but His own can fully speak the deep things of (rod ? 
His mind, if I may use such languago, must have infinite channels 


through which His thoughts may flow in their continual revelations 
to other beings. Divine truths, I conceive, must have an utterance 
as Divine. It is, however, as difficult for us to understand the 
language with any fulness and exactness as it is to comprehend the 
thoughts belonging to the sphere to which it is related. We need 
an interpreter of this heavenly tongue : this sublime and godlike 
speech. We may, as some suppose, know in a dim way that it is 
" the voice of the Lord G-od " in His garden ; but the voice does 
not bring to us at the same time any other feelings than those of 
fear and spiritual terror.* The strangeness of the language is, in 
truth, at first as perplexing as the singularity of the facts which it 
embodies. We require, as I say, a teacher to articulate the words 
to us and unveil their meaning ; and in the scene on the Palestinean 
lake, and elsewhere in Christ's life, we have Christ — surely the 
highest spiritual consciousness that men have known, this, whatever 
else He was, all must acknowledge — we have Him, not only com- 
municating the knowledge of Divine truths, but also communicat- 
ing the knowledge of the Divine speech through which we may 
understand these truths. He not only introduces us into the king- 
dom of heaven, but explains to us the language of its inhabitants ; and 
in this way He places in our hands a key that will unlock many of its 
otherwise hidden spiritual meanings. This latter aspect of the para- 
bles appears to me to be a view of them that is too often overlooked 
in our eagerness to draw from them definite lessons for our guidance 
and instruction in life. To get at the principle of the teaching, 
if it really is what we say it is, would be more to the purpose than 
to understand any lesson of any particular parable, valuable as that 
is. The main importance, however, of any individual parable in 
that aspect of them which I am insisting on, is its illustration of a 
general principle which we are ourselves to apply. And this is 
really the case with much that is in the Bible besides the parables. 
There is an absence of definiteness and system on any subject or 
truth. The book as a whole is more fitted to awaken spiritual 
activity and direct its effort than to satisfy an indolent receptivity. 

* All early stages of ethnic religion show that this, in a highly exaggerated 
degree, is precisely what nature does suggest to the primitive spiritual conscious- 
ness. When we first meet the Hebrew spirit face to face with nature, the 
Divine voice was recognised with fear it is true, but not with such abject and 
continuous fear as that with which other religions have made us familiar. At 
an early date in Hebrew history fear appears to have given place to close com- 
munion. " I was afraid . . . and hid myself," their first man said ; he is 
however drawn from his hiding. 


Once get at the principle of life in it, and growing spiritual 
experience and observation will supply the rest. This is the case in 
the present instance. We have received the key, as we said, and 
seen the way in which it is to be used ; we have got the method 
with a few illustrations of the manner of its application in detail ; 
and our duty is not to rest satisfied with what Christ has given us 
in the few priceless treasures which He unlocked, or consider the 
illustrative examples that He left, as the ultimate result of this Divine 
method for the spiritual interpretation of nature. We must take 
the key in our own hands, and search for ourselves after this hidden 
treasure of the Divine ; we must master the method, and advance 
beyond the illustrations to new conquests and discoveries of our own. 

No one who has any intellectual vitality at all, comfortably 
settles down after having mastered the illustrative instances of a 
scientific method, for example, as if these were the end of the 
matter and not the beginning. It is only in the spiritual that we 
are so much inclined to mistake the starting point for the goal. We 
need to be urged always by that very earnest entreaty of the writer of 
the Epistle to the Hebrews, " therefore, leaving the principles of the 
doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection." We either accept 
the principles as facts and not methods, or, accepting these necessary 
elements of all after growth as principles, are too indolent or 
timorous in applying them. We have failed to see the Divine in 
nature as Christ saw it, because we do not believe that He came, not 
merely to give us a revelation of the Divine everywhere, but to 
give us power and vision of our own to see what He saw. It has 
thus happened to us as to many in whose hearing the parables were 
originally uttered : seeing, we see not ; and hearing, we hear not, 
neither do we understand. Now, as then, it is given to some " to 
know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven ; " but in this kind 
of knowledge, as in other kinds, there is an unavoidable condition of 
continued perception and growth in it : viz., this, that " whosoever 
hath to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; 
but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that 
he hath." 

And this condition is by Christ Himself attached, not merely to 
the more advanced stage of spiritual perception, but to the very 
beginnings of its exercise. If it has not been given to us in increasing 
abundance to see God in nature and common experience as well as in 
a past revelation, it is because we would not. The consequence of 
this is not simply that we have lost much that we inherit from the 


former experiences of religions men, bnt much also of the power of 
seeing for ourselves. For have we, — I do not mean men generally 
sceptical of religions experience, — not even come to question whether 
the recorded experiences of the religions minds of former times are 
to be received by us as facts of the spiritual life, or to be regarded 
merely as delusions of a vigorous fancy or fanatical enthusiasm ? It 
has actually come to be a matter of grave doubt and of not very 
uncommon denial, or more generally indifference and quiet shelving 
of the whole question of the spiritual. If discussed at all, it is 
discussed not as a matter of fact needing testimony and proper 
accrediting only ; it is the very possibility of the fact that is matter 
of dispute. Verily we have lost even that which we had. There 
are some again who do not see the Divine in nature and in the 
occurrences of the hour, but who profess to see it in the events of an 
ancient people and in nature at special points in the history of that 
people. To say the least of it, such professions must be open to 
grave suspicion. No doubt many think sincerely that they see the 
Divine in these distant times, although the present gives no such 
intimations to them ; but it is an intellectual perception, not a spiritual 
recognition answering to a constant personal experience of their own. 
The tendency of modern thought is, however, very much set in 
another direction, nor can the tendency be effectually counteracted 
unless through the view of nature as taught by Christ in the parables 
asserting itself in our spiritual consciousness. There is (all spirit- 
ually minded men must feel it) very much in our scientific study of 
nature and social life that tends to conceal the spiritual reality given 
through both, just as in former times the vivid perception of the 
spiritual in these facts of daily experience had the effect of weaken- 
ing to some extent the scientific spirit. It would be foolish to say one 
word against scientific inquiry. It is absolutely necessary that it 
should be carried on and not only so, but that its true spirit should 
be more widely diffused than it is. There is the false spirit of it, 
which bearing its name, shows itself by its flippancy and arrogance 
to be separated from it by the wide gulf of ignorance and scientific 
inexperience. It is not so much men of science as men who have no 
science, but depend upon the vague rumours and reports of those 
who know a little, who have gone out of their way to deny or refuse 
to recognise the spiritual element that pervades all nature and life. 
These men forget that on the showing of the best and most honest 
inquirers not a tithe of the mysteries of the external universe have 
as yet been discovered. 


We need oar spiritual sympathies awakened by contact with the 
spirit of Christ, that the faculties of that part of our nature may be 
excited and made susceptible to the impression of the Divine which 
meets us everywhere, but is not everywhere recognisable by us for 
want of inner correspondence. The union of a susceptible spiritual 
consciousness with revived scientific earnestness can alone give us a 
complete view of human life and nature. Most men are sensible at 
present of a view that is altogether partial and inadequate to facts 
and unsatisfactory to the human spirit. By the union indicated we 
should derive from familiarity and intercourse with nature, not 
merely intellectual impetus, but spiritual invigoration as well, through 
the mutual interaction, never before in any fulness experienced by 
our race, of those hitherto opposing forces. Our treasured ex- 
periences and observations in both directions would then lead us to 
that higher truth and higher world which, call it what we will, it is 
our end and purpose to reach; instead of, as now, leading us 
through the smoke of the conflict of our twofold nature — whither 
we do not very well know, but each one trusting somehow that he 
is in the right way, and if charitable, hoping that his neighbour is 
similarly fortunate, although he may be advancing in what, to all 
appearance, is a very contrary direction. 

It seems, so far as we can at present make out, natural to believe 
that there exist closer relations than are generally supposed between 
all forms of life, the spiritual and natural included. This idea is at 
the root of Christ's teaching by parables. When, therefore, our per- 
ceptions of these two great orders of truth are widened and deepened, 
each in its own sphere and by its own method, we may find some 
universal principle of being that binds all things to one common source 
and centre. At any rate let us lay our nature open to the unseen 
and Divine in all life as well as to the seen. We have faculties for 
the recognition of both elements. Goethe, who saw deeper into the 
scientific side of nature than many of its professed investigators, and 
just because of his knowledge of another side, has said, — 

" War 1 nioht das Auge sonnenhaft, 
Die Sonne konnt' es nie erblioken ; 
Lag' nioht in una des Gottes eigne Kraft 
Wie konnt 1 uns Gottliohes entzfioken ? " 

And the rapture of the Divine was as genuine an experience in the 
life of Goethe, and may be in ours also, as the beholding of the sun ; 
the former implying Divine energy in us, as the latter implies the 
eye " sonnenhaft." 




" Insofern, mag man sagen, class die Religion fiber der Moral stehe, weil sie 
aus einer noeh tieferen Quelle stromt, in einen noeh nrspriinglioheren Grand 

If nature by indication and sensible observation oannot reveal the 
spiritual, it may be, as some maintain, that it is given in the con- 
science of man. This is far from being true, however, if it is 
imagined, as is sometimes done, that the conscience in itself gives 
man this revelation, or is anything more than one of the conditions 
of it. Suppose it were a medium; no media can themselves furnish 
that which they mediate. The revelation must be without the 
mediating instrument. The conscience may be one of those indis- 
pensable conditions of the perception of the spiritual communications 
to be made to mankind. The mistake generally made regarding 
the relation of conscience to a revelation arises in a great measure 
from a misapprehension of what revelation really is. It seems some- 
times to be understood as a law given to us, written either on the 
general conscience of mankind, as it is occasionally expressed, or in 
the special records of a nation, or part of it written in the one place 
and part in the other. In the words of Butler, it is concluded, that 
because conscience asserts its supremacy over all the other influ- 
ences in our constitution, it is the voice Divine within us, and 
consequently a revelation of the Divine. We think we shall be able 
to make it clear that this is not the case — that the strictly moral 
feelings — that even the consolidated universal natural conscience, is 
not in itself a revelation in the strict sense of an unveiling of the 
spiritual, but is as distinct from this as is tfce physical sphere of 
truth — that revelation, restricted to the manifestation of spiritual 
relations, is not given by the conscience in its natural state. Al- 
though the natural conscience is capable of elaborating a law or rule 
for the guidance of life in certain relations, and although its proper 
development may be a fundamental pre-requisite to a perfect spirit- 
ual receptivity, it has these ends in common with other faculties of 
our nature. Knowledge of physical truth and development of the 



faculties of sensible perception may, perhaps, be likewise included, 
along with a certain stage of moral advancement, in the expression 
" fulness of the time." 

This part of our inquiry, viz., the origin and nature of moral 
ideas and processes, more than that of any other question regarding 
our mental nature, has been the subject of keen debate and opposite 
opinion, not only in relation to the matter now before us, but also 
as a question in pure philosophy. Even in the latter connection, 
however, theories have been propounded on the subject not always for 
scientific purposes, but sometimes for religious and other interests, 
and the real matter has been too frequently obscured and hidden 
under irrelevant or subsidiary discussions. The chief objection to 
Butler's theory of conscience, for example, as well as to that of 
many others more or less resembling his in its fundamental con- 
ception is, that he takes the existent conscience as his only authority. 
When he describes the faculty as "a superior principle of reflec- 
tion, which distinguishes between the internal principles of man's 
heart as well as his external actions, which passes judgment upon 
himself and them, pronounces determinately some actions to be in 
themselves just, right, good, others to be in themselves wrong, evil, 
unjust ; which without being consulted, without being advised with, 
majestically exerts itself, and approves or condemns him — the doer of 
them accordingly, and which, if not forcibly stopped, naturally and 
always of course, goes on to anticipate a higher and more effectual 
sentence, which shall hereafter second and affirm its own," — when 
Butler speaks thus, we must feel that he is speaking not of what 
Paul thought when he said, " for when the Gentiles which have not 
the law do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having 
not the law, are a law unto themselves ; " but that he speaks of 
what those men feel who have had a veritable revelation from Gk>d. 
Butler's concluding description of the process of advancing "to 
anticipate a higher sentence," etc., is in reality the spiritual con- 
science with which Paul was contrasting the unenlightened Gentile 
conscience, and it is the latter of which Butler is, or as a philosopher 
ought to be, treating in the passage quoted above. We shall not at 
present consider the method (so well illustrated in the above quo- 
tation) of confounding advanced states, not only of conscience, but 
more fully of our general consciousness with earlier states. We 
shall have occasion below to notice this more in detail as distinctive 
of a school in philosophy known as the & priori school of mental 
philosophers. We may safely hold that the primitive conscience, 


so far as we can discover by investigation through comparative 
psychology, is a very different thing from that which Butler here 
represents it to be ; and regarding it, as we do, not as an original 
source of revelation, but only as one among other means of perceiv- 
ing that revelation when it dawned upon man, we are convinced 
that its development, and the characteristics distinguishing it from 
other mental faculties which we possess, are traceable to external 
and unrevealed facts. The law or laws that explain the ordinary 
mental life of man and his ordinary relations are held by some in a 
great measure to explain, and by others fully to account for, what is 
often supposed to be given us originally in conscience. The fact 
seems to be, that besides the physical relations and circumstances by 
which, in common with all sentient life, men are surrounded, they 
have other relations proceeding from the greater complexity of their 
nature. Among these relations are those which have received the 
distinctive name of moral relations, which impress men differently 
from the physical surroundings of their being, but have this 
characteristic in common with these physical and all other experi- 
ences whatever, that they are all reducible to relations affecting our 
sensitivity, and are, therefore, subject to the same law. In studying 
the facts of the moral life, it must not be imagined that an in- 
vestigation into the origin of the principles of this life implies a 
denial of the moral sense — of feelings of approbation or disapproba- 
tion following certain actions ; all that we or those who pursue this 
method attempt, is to account for these varied phenomena; the pro- 
posed explanation of them being attained by instituting such obser- 
vation and comparison of facts as we follow in our scientific treat- 
ment of intellectual phenomena, or phenomena in the various 
divisions of the world of nature. By a rejection of the intuitional, 
or what, from our present position, we might call the quasi-revelation 
theory of conscience, it is not meant to ignore as facts the pheno- 
mena in our moral existence which this hypothesis is intended to 
explain, although this sometimes appears to be alleged by the 
intuitionalists. As well might Ptolemy or Kepler be said to have 
denied the fact of a solar system because they each gave different 
renderings of the laws of that system. The primary objection to 
the quasi-revelation theory of conscience is, that it proceeds upon 
the assumption that moral life and its manifestations, by reason of 
their peculiar and special characteristics, have some special and 
extraordinary origin. But if life and true knowledge are only pos- 
sible as they each correspond to external relations, and if it be true 

e 2 


that these correspondences with the external world are only learned 
after a varied number of experiences, the result of association con- 
joined with other well-known subsidiary laws, it is difficult to see 
why new laws, or a new hypothesis rather, should be considered 
necessary to account for the production of correspondences and the 
processes of these results, which in themselves cannot be shown to 
be different from the other mental processes, although the relations 
may be so different as to lead to a division or separate classification 
of them for the purpose of more strict inquiry. Our ordinary men- 
tal affections are probably in the last resort referable to two suscep- 
tibilities of our nature, pleasure and pain,* and, in the endeavour 
to conform to external circumstances, all sentient life is moved by 
certain sensibilities which are affected in a given way. These 
susceptibilities could only be permanently effective, either as sensa- 
tions or ideas, in proportion as the organism felt them to be pleasur- 
able or painful — the pleasurable causing attraction, the painful pro- 
ducing aversion, in relation to the objects that so affected it. I 
call these the ultimate explanations of such affections, because it 
must be apparent that, as life becomes more complex through mul- 
tiplied relations and experiences, the pleasurable and painful will 
also assume greater complexity, although retaining their funda- 
mental characteristic of being pleasurable and painful. This is 
repeatedly overlooked by those who object to this final analysis 
in any moral psychological problem, and their criticisms are, accor- 
dingly, directed against an imaginary theory which no rational 
psychologist could for a moment maintain, viz., that secondary, 
as well as primary mental and emotional states may be resolved 
into pleasure and pain as mere Bensuous affections. As life gains 
in richness and variety, the causes of moral feeling become like- 
wise richer and more varied; so that to account for the moral 
beliefs and feelings of Europe in the nineteenth century, an elaborate 

* Dr. Lazarus, among others, has spoken severely of this theory as an easy 
method of bringing different phenomena under one abstract scheme. He pro- 
poses, as more in accordance with science, to emphasise the peculiarity of moral 
facts by laying down, as the germ of moral growth , two original moral feelings, 
" die Billigong und der Tadel.'* It is obvious, I think, that these very feelings 
presuppose a considerable growth in moral perception. Nor does Dr. Lazarus 
meet this objection by premising, as he does, that these feelings must be under- 
stood to be at the first without definite content. It would require very sub- 
stantial evidence to show, that the feelings of approval and disapproval are 
unaccompanied, at any stage, by a more or less definite content in perception. 


analysis of its complex life in its industrial, burghal, family, aesthetic, 
religions, and other manifestations is absolutely necessary. But 
notwithstanding this, it is true, as I have said, that the root of all 
and the basal elements are attraction and repulsion. 

In the actions of our fellow men which connect themselves with 
our own life through relations which we call moral, and in our 
own actions which touch others through the same relations, similar 
susceptibilities are brought into play. It remains to trace the 
cause of the increased energy of the feelings, and of what may be 
peculiar in the character of the accompanying sentiments, in the 
case of moral relations, and this may partly be done by a considera- 
tion of the strong association which is naturally, and as a matter of 
fact, formed between our feelings of pleasure and pain, and the ac- 
tions, good or bad, of our fellow men. In the higher civilisation end- 
less natural and fictitious associations combine with the primitive 
association ; but it can be shown that the peculiarity of moral feel- 
ing as such needs originally no other source for its explanation than 
what I have here stated. In the environment it may be seen that 
fortuitous relations are formed by fortuitous associations, and that a 
stronger, or what is sometimes called a necessary relation, is formed 
by a corresponding intensity, or, as it is occasionally designated, 
necessity, in the mental impression. It is precisely so in the moral 
relations. The strongly felt connection that exists between actions 
and their influence upon our own wellbeing and that of others is 
followed, according to the above principles, by a corresponding im- 
pression on the mental relations, accompanied by an equally impres- 
sive feeling. That a feeling of some kind attends every mental 
state, and is dependent on the energy of the mental impression, and 
proportioned to that energy, is a psychological fact. A cognition 
may be accompanied by a wave of feeling in all possible degrees of 
power, ranging from a feeling imperceptible, unless to minute 
analysis, to one which is so passionate and overwhelming as to 
transmute the thought entirely, and resolve it into an apparently 
pure emotion with the faintest traces of a cognitive state. Many 
ideas which were at first the unimpassioned possession of a philo- 
sophical mind, and which were reached by inquiries in which feeling 
was subordinated to, what we may call, simple intellectual action,have, 
ultimately and through the gradation I speak of, become the property 
of multitudes, and have so possessed the crowd as to be in fact an 
^discriminating impulse, or blind semi-instinctive tendency, towards 
some end. Such ideas will almost always be found at bottom to be 


social, which are in reality moral. The strength of the feelings ac- 
companying moral relations may perhaps be farther understood, if 
we remember, that as experience is widened, the complexity of an 
emotion increases in the same ratio as the complexity of the cogni- 
tion to which it is attached. In this way there is brought about 
a state, familiar to all psychologists, of highly complex emotions 
originating in a manner similar to that in which complex ideas take 
their rise, viz., by the coalescence of mental states, well known in 
the operations of the human mind. 

The difficulty here tarns on the method in which the complex 
moral emotions and ideas are built up, that is, in other words, on the 
law of the process. An attempt has been made to trace some of 
these most general ideas and their corresponding emotions, such as 
right and wrong, to authoritative command and legislative inter- 
ference ; but these are rather modes in which such ideas and feelings 
gather force and intensity than the expression of the source whence 
they originate. We must take legislation and authoritative com- 
mand into account, but only in a secondary way. The prominence 
given to these facts, as forming the basis for a theory of moral 
phenomena, is liable to the objection that has already been made to 
the quasi-revelation theory, viz., that it starts from the present 
condition of our moral nature only, and also presupposes a uniform 
state of social and civil arrangements, like the present, prevailing in 
earlier times, instead of seeking to know the actual primitive con- 
dition of our moral being, and thereafter to explain the further 
modifying influences which affected it, by change of circumstances, 
such as the family bond and the organisation of society. Besides, 
it may be well objected, as has been done, to all such theories as 
that of education in morals, especially if they are held to be ex- 
haustive, and of which legislative enactment is one form, that they 
give no answer to the question, Who taught the teachers of the 
laws, or customs, or morals, supposed to have been communicated or 
enacted ? It is only putting the cause further back. 

In the theory I have stated, all that needs to be assumed, unless 
we presuppose what the quasi-revelation theory of conscience pre- 
supposes, is the fact of a sentient life in some measure adapted, or 
capable of becoming adapted, to its surroundings ; and this we have 
as an actual, existing fact. Starting with this, and bearing in mind 
what has been said, there is nothing singular and beyond the 
sphere of common experimental truth in the subject of morals, to 
necessitate the hypothesis of conscience as the source of revelation, 


and its so-called laws as revealed truths. If we have attained a 
knowledge of right and wrong from the actions of our fellow men 
in relation to whom we have been placed, by means of the funda- 
mental susceptibilities of our nature, it is no more strange a thing 
than the fact, that a knowledge of other relations should be gained 
by the same means, seeing that a knowledge of both is necessary to 
our very existence in these relations. Bight, wrong, law, justice, 
good, bad, etc., do not exist in the primitive mind in the forms, antf 
with the contents that they have at present. If these ideas exist at all 
in any sense that can excuse us in applying such terms to them, they 
exist in a very vague and chaotic form, as we shall immediately point 
out. It is only after considerable experience that any such notions 
can arise, and before they can become discriminated from other ex- 
periences a power of observation and abstraction must be exercised, 
which is strictly a development of later times. What perhaps pre- 
vents many from understanding these general moral conceptions is 
the old difficulty men have in distinguishing between abstractions 
and realities. We fail often to realise that virtue and vice are 
nothing more than general names formed, as all such general names 
are formed, from the similarity of particular experiences. The 
law at the basis of naming in morals is the same as that at the 
basis of naming in other relations. But we are sometimes told in 
the case of moral truths, as we are told in the case of other gener- 
ated truths, that our moral ideas, or intuitions as they are called, 
are immediate perceptions of qualities in certain objects, and that, 
for example, on the bare contemplation of any ungrateful spirit 
conscience declares it evil. We freely grant that our present con- 
science may do such a thing, just as in Butler's language it may, if 
not forced — we should prefer saying, it may, if trained, go on to 
anticipate a higher and more effectual sentence, — a training which, 
in its proper place, we shall see to be necessary to the full develop- 
ment of the whole man. What we have granted, however, does 
not answer the question why such an action as the one supposed 
is stigmatised at all; or why this exercise of mind should be 
thought utterly unlike an ordinary act of judgment, such as our 
pronouncing at sight a stick to be straight. High transcendental 
answers will not suffice to explain this, nor will insinuations against 
a rationale of it, such as Dr. M'Cosh indulges in when he remarks, 
that feelings generated by association are created independently of 
our choice, and merely by outward contiguities, and inferior to 


those which a higher (?) moral theory* furnishes when it declares, 
that certain moral affections, — for example, gratitude, love, justice, 
— are themselves good, and others evil, in their very nature. In 
scientific investigation of any kind it is not usual to speak of a 
higher and lower theory of facts, but generally of a true or false 

The supreme and inclusive objection, by the men we have 
mentioned, and those whom they represent, to an explanation of the 
moral nature by experience and not by a sort of Divine revela- 
tion in man — a law implanted in him, is, that the only explanation 
that can be rendered intelligible is reckoned a base source for what 
are called, and in some forms and types may well be considered, 
"noble ideas" — that it is not possible to transmute the base 
sensations into these noble ideas by any mental process. To 
this we need only say in reply, that the law which explains any 
class of phenomena in the most satisfactory and scientific manner, 
and after sufficient verification, according to well known rules, is the 
highest law (if we are to have such a phraseology), and the highest, 
for the plain reason that it is the only, law of these phenomena, and 
all other laws, transcendental and otherwise, are, not only inferior 
to this, but altogether outside of it, being not laws at all, but 
imaginary phantasms projected among certain phenomena with 
which they have no correspondence. Paul, upon whose supposed 
authority much of this reasoning is founded, knew something of foolish 
things, and weak things, and base things confounding their opposites, 
because he saw how much wiser, stronger, nobler, was God's foolish- 
ness, weakness, baseness than man's ; and men of exact observation 
in nature teach us, as indeed on a small scale every one can see for 
himself, how constantly the same action of transmutation is going 
on around us. From deformity we see beauty come forth every 
spring season ; from blackened branches, fair flowers and graceful 
foliage ; from handf uls of grain seemingly dead as the clod on which 
they fall, life everywhere, making the outlying landscape resplendent 
in its bright golden green . Decadence is, on the other side of it, a life 
germ ; loveliness transforms even putrescence ; rich meadows, gay 
with flowers and full of all fair imagery, rise out of barrenness and 

* As another instance of this way of looking at the question I may mention, 
that Professor Blackie, of Edinburgh, in his " Four Phases of Morals," is so 
eager to vilify the experimental theory of morals that he never once touches 
it as a scientific moralist. His criticisms, where he condescends, are directed 
to his own'caricatores of the system. 


filth; deep glens, high peaks, broad lakes, and every inspiring 
scene are wrought nobly by nature's lowliest ministers ; worms 
trench onr soil, and give ns fertile mould equally with the most 
scientific farming. From low to higher is nature's way. With a 
few common elements she creates endless forms of being, organic 
and inorganic, overpowering us with their grandeur and sublimity, 
or delighting us with their beauty. 

In answer to the theory, therefore, that pleasure and pain are the 
elements that, operating by mental laws with our experience in 
social relations, originate our moral' ideas, it is not sufficient to 
hold language implying, that such a theory degrades these ideas, 
as is done when it is asserted that these elements may originate 
other ideas, but cannot generate such — ideas so full of meaning, 
that they must be the product of some power above them. The 
warning given, that the principle which explains moral ideas from 
sense experience takes away conscience, which men now believe to 
carry its own convictions and sanctions — the inborn sense and 
native perception of good and evil — that it cuts down the tree that 
has borne the fruit, that it kills the hen that laid the golden eggs,* 
etc., is altogether out of place, since the principle takes away 
nothing, but only seeks to explain, in a scientific manner, the origin 
and growth of the things that now are. It is a question, not of 
positing or denying a set of facts, but of explaining or generalising 
them under a law. The question, stated generally, regards the 
origin of ethical and social beliefs — what is just and unjust, honour- 
able and base, pure and impure, obligatory to do, and obligatory not 
to do— beliefs which are established facts, into which each new 
member of society is born, and which, as he advances in life and 
experience, he finds keeping pace with, or rather anticipating, that ad- 
vancement. The origin of these, like the origin of all our beliefs, 
lies far back in the history of the race, and it is in this direction we 
must look for a full answer to these and similar questions. The 
danger, as I have had occasion to remark in another connection, 
of interpreting these early histories from philological and other data 
which the different languages, literatures, and customs supply, lies 
in our tendency to transport the feelings and conceptions of the 
present day into ancient forms of life and thought. It is a very 
common thing to find meanings put into words, and interpretations 
given of customs, which the former were not intended to convey 

* Dr. M'Cosh. 


and which the latter cannot bear. Words now used in a purely 
moral sense have had, when occurring in early history and 
literature, all or nearly all the modern notions of morality im- 
ported into them by some modern interpreters, while in reality a 
moral meaning, at least as we understand the term moral, may 
not, unless in a very modified form, be actually in them originally, 
the conception being chiefly and primarily a kosmical one. This, 
probably, became afterwards in some cases cesthetio and only ultimate- 
ly moral. In fact we have read primitive ethics, as we long dijl 
primitive mythologies, by "reading into them our own moral ideas 
and religious conceptions. This course of development of the 
moral idea in the past, from the kosmical through the aesthetic to 
the strictly ethical, corresponds with the general form of some 
famous moral systems built upon the primitive base, viz., the idea 
of symmetry in action. This is a prominent characteristic of 
ancient Grecian life and moral thought, and we may take these 
as typical. The mould, so to say, into which the Greeks threw the 
elements that rank with us as moral was artistic ; and looked at in 
this light, their systems of morality were not only well adapted to 
attain the end designed, but were the natural expression of the 
mental attitude of the nation. The characteristic we have mentioned 
is evidently the formative principle of the wise man's character as 
drawn by Aristotle, and his frequent allusion to the arts and his 
analogical illustrations show how deeply this aspect of morality was 
rooted in the mind of the great Grecian philosopher. It was a 
wrong interpretation of this fact that made Hobbes say that the 
Greek schools made " the rules of good and bad by their own liking 
and disliking, and every one, on account of their diversity of taste," 
did what seemed "good in his own eyes," and that there was 
" nothing more ignorant than Aristotle's ethics." Actions in the 
Homeric age had scarcely advanced to the point of view here men- 
tioned. We see throughout the Homeric poems a confusion of terms 
vaguely and indifferently applied both to physical conditions and 
moral character. The sense of conformity with kosmical experience, 
with which, in the form and colour of external objects, men were 
familiar, appears to be the prevailing light in which actions were 
regarded. One standard was thought sufficient for both. Bight 
and wrong were in this sense applied to the outward act, while the 
merit or demerit of the agent was rarely felt. This explains much 
that puzzles us in primitive moral life : that absence of remorse, and 
general unscrnpulousness in publio and private life. Good and bad 


had at first a like double signification, and it was only after con- 
siderable advancement in definiteness of observation and knowledge 
that the two notions became separated. This union of sensible and 
moral notions was inevitable in that phase of thought and personal 
conception of the external world which gave birth to mythological 

But how did the separation take place, and in what manner did 
the ideas and sentiments of right and wrong, good and bad, come to 
include the actions which they now include, and to excite feelings 
towards the agent of merit and demerit, obligation and non-obliga- 
tion ? Evidently, as we saw before, not by any law, internal or even 
external, prior to the fact. Its genesis, as has been well remarked, 
is that of a " decree after the fact."* The only objection that can 
be brought against this mode of statement and the illustration which 
follows is, that it takes a state of society, when moral ideas, must 
have been well advanced, as the state in which they were first 
originated, and is thus really, although perhaps not intentionally, a 
legislative and governmental theory. It also, as shall be seen, gives 
too great prominence to individual action and allows too little for 
social forces. This decree after the fact, it is explained, signifies that 
" an action has been committed, and the decision is made, not in 
accordance with a law presupposed as existing prior to the action 
itself, but a law is made at the moment of adjudication on the action 
by a judge or judges thought in early times to be inspired," but 
whom we would now call men of wisdom and clear discernment, 
capable of foreseeing in some measure the consequences of an 
action, that is, of discovering the connection between cause and 
effect in moral relations. The principle is the very same as that 
applied to relations in the physical world. The difference between 
the two is only apparent, and arises from the equivocal use of the 
word law, which means in morals, primarily a rule of action, and only 
occasionally, and by some, the order of the occurrence of moral phe- 
nomena, while in physics it has primarily the meaning of order in 
events, and only occasionally, and by a few, the meaning of rule or 
command. Scientifically, however, we speak in both cases, if both 
are subject matter of science, of the laws of moral life and of physical 
facts, meaning by that the method of sequence in which they are 
both found, on investigation, to take place. Singularly enough, in 
the moral relations we have been long supposed, after the manner of 

* Main. 


silk- worms, to uncoil this from some mysterious internal chamber 
bnt why the thread that connects sensible antecedent and conse- 
quent should not be similarly unravelled, it is hard to see. If the 
laws of one set of occurrences are written within, why not the laws 
of the other ? The connection we trace in both instances is really 
and solely an act of mental perception exercised on external pheno- 

A moral event, or series of events, come under our observation, or 
we make inquiry concerning them, and after careful investigation 
discover their relation to some other event ; a physical occurrence, 
or series of occurrences, come under our observation, and after a 
similar mental process we see their dependence on some previous 
occurrence. We have arrived at the laws of these moral and sensi- 
ble experiences, and, given the resultant, we can again determine the 
conditions or the reverse. Other experiences accumulate and fall 
under generalisations already formed, or supply material for new 
generalisations. On both moral and physical science we may pro- 
ceed to form a practical art corresponding to each, and thus apply 
our generalised experiences to the conduct of life in various spheres 
of activity. Thus arise rules of art and moral precepts ; and if 
revelation is not held to be necessary for acquiring a knowledge of 
the one, or if the knowledge acquired through the one be not, pro- 
perly speaking, a spiritual revelation, we do not see the propriety of 
ascribing a spiritually revealing power to the other. They give us 
in each case the relations which our sensible faculties are fitted to 
perceive, and not other relations. As an example of the growth of 
morality take the most primitive form of life we can imagine, — 
life where we find the selfish or egoistic element in full force, 
where self-preservation is the motary impulse, and personal security 
and comfort are all that is sought, and here we shall find the rude 
germ of morality with the notion of right and wrong scarcely pre- 
sent, or only so in the most personal and restricted sense. Merit 
or demerit is uufelt, and there is no sense of obligation. Pain 
and pleasure of the most simple and uncompounded form are the 
standard of morals. Action is almost reflex. A natural object 
that hurts or pleases the primitive man affects him as morally 
as does the action of a human agent. At this point the savage 
theory of the distinction between good and evil is, as has been re- 
marked in a very concrete form, " If anybody took away my wife, 
that would be bad ; if I take away some one else's wife, that would 
be good." This mere personal feeling is extended by various cir- 



cumstances to other relations. Other sacred bonds lead to a much 
more extended application of the terms. Within the limits of a 
society of some kind, actions become classified on one side or the 
other according to their effect upon the new relations, and at the 
same time and by the same agencies the simple feelings of pleasure 
and pain gain in richness and complexity. When society becomes 
organised in even the crudest way, terror, formerly acting intermit- 
tently, is felt as a constant restraining force, and certain actions are 
abstained from because associated with the displeasure of neighbours, 
or, if the society have a head, because associated with the displeasure 
of the chief man, and consequent pain to the offender. By such 
strict rule as may be supposed to exist in regard to some actions 
seen by the community or the individual to be of vital importance, 
and by such summary and dreadful temporary punishments as ac- 
tually did exist, strengthened by-and-by, as the present life was 
continued into the unseen and peopled with rulers, by the association 
of a more prolonged punishment, and the high displeasure of ghostly 
men, — by these means, and the personal feelings we have described, a 
more exact discrimination of some actions as belonging to one class, 
and of others as pertaining to another, would be manifested. At first, 
as in all cognitions, these actions and classifications would be of the 
simplest and most elementary nature, even as the personal and social 
relations then were. But gradually, as relations increased in number 
and complexity — as a given society advanced from the crude state of 
independence we have mentioned, to one of comparative dependence on 
some other society, actions would be lifted out of their merely personal 
and tribal relations, and seen to be good or bad, not only as they were 
associated with the approval or disapproval of the community, or of 
individuals, and from their objective primitive accompaniments, but 
from the consequences, advantageous or the reverse, which the actions 
themselves produced in their extended relations. Men could not fail 
to notice that some course of conduct was followed by effects detri- 
mental to the individual, and dangerous to the tribe, or to those beyond 
the tribe, while another course was followed by opposite results ; 
and in this manner a wider classification, more abstract and general- 
ised principles of actions, would be formulated, according as these 
actions were beneficial or hurtful. The passage from personal plea- 
sure or pain, to general wellbeing or the reverse, is the passage from 
an individual to a more social condition of existence. Morality begins 
in the egoistic form, and is mingled, by means of social feelings and 
bonds of increasing variety, with altruistic elements. But these two 


sources are not, to ultimate analysis, distinct. They are both capable 
of reduction to the primitive elements of pleasure and pain. In the 
first case, there is pleasure, say, associated with a certain action, viz., 
our own immediate pleasure, and pain with another action, viz., our 
own immediate pain. In the second instance, the reduction is 
similar ; only in it the pleasures and pains are those of others as 
well as ourselves; the pleasures and pains of others being to us 
their happiness and misery. These altruistic feelings need not be 
considered artificial, as some are inclined to regard them. They 
are the natural and spontaneous result of social relations and a fair 
development of a being like man, who is gifted with social in- 
stincts. To diminish natural capacities for the sake of a philo- 
sophical theory is as vicious as to increase them by imaginary 
faculties. . 

The notions of good and evil, then, are, primitively considered, 
identical with pleasure and pain, or generated originally by associa- 
tion with pleasure and pain ; and virtue and vice, morally considered, 
are, when analysed, matters of computation of pleasures and pains. 
In deciding morally on an action, the process, traced to its final step, 
is simply that of weighing the pleasures against the pains, or the 
greater pleasures against the less; and the intelligent virtuous 
man is he who prefers the greater to the less. The same process is 
pursued in our approval or disapproval of the conduct of others. 
This is really the only ultimately intelligible moral standard that we 
can find for these general conceptions. If they are not referable to 
these primarily, then they represent merely the arbitrarily enunciated 
sentiments of various communities of men. But although we state 
it thus, the standard is not so Bimple in reality, but is of the highest 
complexity, involving, as we see, not only our own pleasures and 
pains, and all that ministers to these, and is in anywise related to 
them, but also the pleasures and pains of mankind, and whatever 
affects their feelings of susceptibility. It is in operating through 
this narrower or wider range of affections, that association has pro- 
duced results so diverse in different communities, and in different 
ages. For instance, in low states of culture, as we saw, men adverted 
very little to the happiness or misery of others; and hence the 
cruelties and barbarities practised in such conditions of life, hence 
also the absence in savage tribes of what are peculiarly social vir- 
tues, and which involve the complex relations of social life, and 
imply a continuous experience in order to produce cohesion and co- 
ordination among the different elements of the complex whole. In 


the first case, the association is mainly between actions, and their 
consequences to the individual ; in the second, it is between the 
actions of these individuals and the consequences of these actions 
to others. And it is from this extended association that we now 
hear so mnch of benevolence, justice, and other social virtues, and 
also of the great Christian virtue of self-sacrifice, which on one side 
is a personal quality, but on the other side is, really a social virtue, 
and, despite the apparent paradox of the statement for an intuitive 
philosopher, is the efflorescence of experimental morality, or, at least, 
is more capable of being grafted on that theory than on any other.* 
From performing actions because associated with our own happiness, 
we come to perform them because associated with the happiness 
of a wider and wider circle of the human family ; and from con* 
demning actions that were hurtful to us as individuals, we reach 
the more advanced stage of condemning them because hurtful to 
society generally. That association, working through given relations, 
produces this result, may be seen most clearly if we take the facts 
furnished by the growth of international morality, which is, com- 
paratively speaking, of very recent origin. In early times it was 
entirely overlooked, simply because there was no felt consequence 
between our conduct and the happiness or misery of those who were 
beyond the community in which we lived ; or rather, there was 
the strong belief that the happiness of our community was de- 
pendent upon a course of conduct, cruel and ferocious in the ex- 
treme, towards neighbouring communities. Each community stood 
within its own boundaries, and regarded all beyond as enemies to 
whom it owed, if it owed anything, the simple duty of extirpation. 
It is only as the association between the general happiness and in- 
dividual actions becomes confirmed by continual conjunctive experi- 
ences, that codes of morality applicable to all nations, are recognised 
and acted upon by mankind. This extension of the consequences 
of actions has been, through the most gradual series of relations, 
reaching from the animal attitude of tribe to tribe, to that ideal 
contemplation of others as men and equals, to whom we have the 
duties of virtue to perform, and the obligations of justice to fulfil. 
We say ideal, because in modern society we have all the stages in 
actual existence, and realise in action the narrowest conception of 
moral relations far more frequently than the widest. Forces are at 

• The spiritual element in self-sacrifice will be explained when we come to 
speak of the relation of morality to Christianity. 


work, however, and have been operating for some time, which will ul- 
timately break down these barriers. Political and economical consid- 
erations, scientific truths, and religions ideas, are fast founding a uni- 
versal morality ; and although not always carried out, it is generally 
considered theoretically as an axiom in morals that it is not right to 
pursue one line of conduct towards a foreign nation and another and 
opposite towards a fellow countryman. The idea of one grand com- 
monwealth is rapidly spreading, paving the way for the recognition 
of a universal brotherhood, which is the true bond of humanity, and 
which the highest and widest form of social organisation can alone 
condition, viz., that of a great confederation of nations based on 
an equality of rights, which is the greatest generalisation of morality, 
not as it is, but as it ought to be. Through commerce, and the in- 
tercourse, and knowledge, and dependence that commercial relations 
imply, through sympathy with every phase of culture, and by means 
of the powerful forces already mentioned, we have come to learn 
with Milton, that, "it is not distance that makes enmity, but enmity 
that makes distance ; " that " he who keeps peace with me, near or 
remote, of whatsoever nation, is to me, as far as all human civil 
offices are concerned, an Englishman and a neighbour ; but if an 
Englishman, forgetting all laws, human, civil, and religious, offend 
against life and liberty, to him offended, and to the law on his behalf, 
though born in the same womb, he is no better than a Saracen, a 
Turk, a heathen.'* Nor is it merely that new relations as to the 
consequences of actions become co-ordinated by widening experiences 
frequently repeated, but relations not moral are associated with 
those that are purely so. For instance, a deceitful action, not only 
calls up in the mind of the mature man the consequences that will 
inevitably follow, both personally and otherwise, from such an act; it 
inspires other thoughts and feelings in addition, some of which may 
be of an aesthetic nature, similar to those in earlier conceptions on 
the same subject, such as meanness, crookedness, with many colla- 
teral associations, general and individual. These mingle with the 
moral feeling, and indeed become so fused with it, as to appear in- 
soluble. The same may be said of nearly all the moral feelings. 
Indeed, sometimes the impulse to actions or the restraining motive 
may be chiefly of a non-moral kind. The predominance of the one 
or the other element in the complex mental state will either be the 
result of special association, or be occasioned by the characteristic 
feature in the temperament of the individual, leading him to advert 
to the one aspect of the action rather than the other. One man 


might refrain from murder from sheer disgust at the physical ac- 
companiments, while another with feeble sensibilities in that direc- 
tion wonld be constrained by what are looked npon as more strictly 
moral feelings or sanctions. . 

Bnt to come more closely to the meaning of morality, or that 
which is generally held to constitute an action moral, viz., responsi- 
bility or enforcement by punishment. As is often maintained in 
regard to judgment of any kind, so it is asserted in regard to moral 
judgments, that the principle of association, of which we have been 
speaking, takes away that idea of responsibility for our actions which 
some other theory is held as strengthening. So far is this from being 
true, that it may, on the contrary, be shown that association is the 
very principle that explains the origin of the feeling of responsibility 
or liability to punishment. Dr. M'Cosh thinks he has settled this 
point from his peculiar position when he says, that "the idea we have 
of pain and the idea of deceit are different ; deceit meaning morally evil, 
condemnable, deserving of pain, our consciousness being witness." 
This is a witness which we may safely trust in the present instance, 
only it is necessary to interrogate consciousness still further ; and a 
very little cross examination indeed will convince us, that the two 
ideas mentioned by Dr. M'Cosh are not so utterly dissimilar as he 
affirms, since both, according to his own analysis, have the idea of 
pain, and from this we can trace the development of the idea of 
punishability or deserving of pain. The development is consequent 
on the relations and experiences of life. The ideas of love and de- 
serving of love, of hatred and deserving of hatred, of pain and 
deserving of pain, like the economic ideas of wage and deserving of 
it, and the physical ideas of reaping and deserving to reap, are no- 
wise distinct in themselves. The difference between the first and 
the second is simply a matter of generalisation. In certain circum- 
stances, we conclude that pain, or love, or hatred, or reward, or 
reaping, shall follow as a sequence to some antecedent or antecedents, 
with which any one of these results has been frequently connected. 
We say that a man who bestows time and labour and skill in his 
business ought or deserves to get remuneration. That is, remun- 
eration of which we have had experience already will, on the same 
conjunction of events as formerly, be again experienced. The 
strong imperative form in which we express moral sequence has 
arisen in a great measure from the fact that in moral experiences we 
have to deal with personalities, who thus formulate cause and effect. 

It is at this stage that the educational theory, either as legislative 


or otherwise, is most consonant to fact. By our earliest experi- 
ences we are led to join pain, or punishment of some kind, with 
forbidden actions, that is, with actions seen to be productive of 
pain to others. When any such deed is committed, punishment 
follows it, either actually or by threat, and this being constantly re- 
peated in our own experience as well as in our observations of 
those around us, there results from the law of repeated action be- 
tween two sets of circumstances, specially impressive in each indi- 
vidual case, the closest relationship, ending in an entire fusion of 
the two. After this cohesion, we no sooner contemplate a prohibited 
act than the notion of punishment arises along with it, or, more 
exactly, the two notions arise simultaneously or apparently so. 
There need be no special season of teaching, or special teacher, to 
produce this intimate union. It is a relation and association pro- 
duced immediately by the will of others in some position of author- 
ity; but it is constantly strengthened in an almost unconscious 
manner by means much less direct and formal.* Were a child 
asked why such an action was deserving of punishment, it could 
only point to the fact, that those who had authority had previously 
punished it on the committal of the deed, and threatened punish- • 
ment on future commissions, or that punishment, which means pain, 
had been, in some way, set as a mark upon the action. The child 
may afterwards for himself find reasons for such a conjunction of 
punishment with bad actions ; but, in the meantime, the mere arbi- 
trary and inexplicable union is sufficient, and in many minds that 
have reached, according to years, an adult state, the association 
has no other basis than the fact of such conjunction. Respon- 
sibility is the relative notion of punishability, and like the latter, 
instead of being, as is often supposed, a peculiar deliverance of an 
a priori moral law, it is the result of our earliest, and most per- 
sistently continuous experiences. This idea or feeling of respon- 
sibility is universal. Its universality, however, does not spring from 
the metaphysical conception of free will, but from the simple fact 
that men everywhere are made to realise their responsibility through 
liability to punishment, combined with the teachings imparted by 
the natural result of certain actions, and, it may be, altogether inde- 
pendent of human intervention. The extreme variability of this idea 

* In reality, as Bouaseau insists, the best teacher would be the less direct and 
formal inculcation of act and consequence — where the action is allowed, as much 
as possible, to reach its result without the intervention of will. 


in different conditions of society, and among different men in the 
same conditions, is merely what we should expect from variety of 
moral experience and natural capacity. 

The idea of duty, which is in some respects the positive side of 
punishability, may be traced to a relation of pleasure with certain 
acts, joined, no doubt, to a feeling of pain with their opposites. Per- 
sonality, in the form of authoritative command or enactment, is a 
very prominent element in the idea of duty as we now conceive it 
The idea is not so primitive as that of punishability, nor can it be 
so early impressed upon young and immature minds. It supposes a 
certain advance in social life, and a much more complete organisa- 
tion of national existence. Nomadic peoples might give us the re- 
straining force of punishability ; but it is only when we come down 
to established and well regulated communities that the impelling 
power of duty attains, in moral life, anything like the form of a 
crystallised moral conception. Men see generally what hurts much 
sooner than what actually benefits them. Motives to abstain from 
wrong doing are formed long before impulses to right action. The one 
is the clumsy and tentative essays of pure empiricism, which is pe- 
culiar to all original human action ; it is the mere struggle to maintain 
moral existence. The other is the matured result of moral action ; 
the effort to perfect and develop moral life. Legal codes show us 
this primitive moral standpoint in a state of wonderful preservation. 
Their fundamental idea is repression of evil, and they accordingly 
emphasise deterrent influences. Christian morality, on the other 
hand, is the highest type of morality. Its fundamental idea is as- 
piration after the good and true, and it emphasises attractive in- 
fluences. The one says, abstain from evil ; the other says, be per- 
fect. Punishment is the watchword of the one; duty in the 
religious form of love is the watchword of the other. 

But the purely moral idea of duty, like that of punishability, is 
founded on a relation of positive command with certain classes of 
actions, and also on that of personal observation of these actions as 
tending to the welfare of ourselves and others, both of which, on 
repeated conjunctive experience, result in the feeling of obligation 
to perform these deeds. Why the feeling of duty should be stronger 
in regard to some actions than others, and more intense in some in- 
dividuals than in others, may be owing to two varied associations. 
In the first place, there may be associated, in the one case, a stronger 
feeling that the happiness of others is specially dependent on the 
action or actions in question ; and, in the second place, one man 

p 2 


may be more indifferent to, and partially ignorant or, the source 
whence the feeling or idea of dnty emanates than another. If 
the source has never been seen to rise above the personal concep- 
tion in which it originated, the power of dnty as a motive will be 
weak or strong according to the respect and awe in which the au- 
thority that enforces it may be held. If the source has been re- 
alised to be a rational one — inherent in the very constitution and 
order of moral life, the motive power of duty will be more equable 
in its action, and vary in force in different men in accordance with 
some fundamental distinctions in their moral and intellectual nature. 
Or, it may happen that among the various elements, of which we 
have seen any given moral feeling or idea to be composed, some 
elements of the group may obscure the feeling of duty or obligation, 
by being more prominent in the one mind, than in the other — a 
prominency which may be due, either to general experience, or idio- 
syncrasy of character. 

In a manner similar to that above described, there is produced 
in us, by experience, tradition, education, and various other means, 
that inward sanction and standard of action called conscience, or 
the moral sense. We are told, however, that this, or indeed any 
secondary derivation of conscience from a fusion of the entire feel- 
ings excited by moral relations, is inconsistent with the fact that it 
contains an imperative — an ought. It is on this, in a great mea- 
sure, as we saw at the outset of this inquiry into the real nature of 
the moral life in man, that the theory of moral experience as a form 
of revelation, or quasi-revelation, is founded. But this aspect of 
morals is sufficiently accounted for by what we have casually noticed 
already, viz., the intense nature of the feelings in regard to the con- 
sequences of these actions, and their supreme importance, socially 
and individually, joined to the objective enforcement of them by 
particular men, or by society in general, or by their observed natural 
consequences. It may be said in reply to this, that the perfect moral 
man does not perform' good deeds through fear of the sanctions of 
the dread tribunal within, or the not less dread one without. And 
this is true. But how is this moral state produced P Evidently 
the persistence of the sanction, which at first compelled him, 
associated with wrongdoing, and supported by the exercise of 
intelligent observation, has bred in him, through frequency of 
repeated action, an aversion, not simply as at first, to the effects of 
the sanction as the mark of the wrong, but an aversion to the wrong 
itself, that is, the moving cause is transferred from the one 


element in the associated feeling to the other. There is no very 
wide step between abhorrence of a course of conduct, because it is 
punishable, or somehow prohibited, and abhorrence of the course for 
its own sake. It is a step which we see society constantly take. 
Men who begin to act in a certain way from a regard to an outward 
sanction often end by acting from love of the course itself. Be- 
sides the transference of the association which I have noticed, the 
very pursuance of a manner of life, from whatever motive it may 
have originated, becomes ultimately, through long continuance, 
pleasurable in itself. The reverse is often held to be the case. It 
is said that if virtue originate in pleasure, and I suppose in pain too, 
it can never be loved apart from pleasure or pain. The meaning 
intended to be conveyed by such a statement is, that a result the 
opposite of what I have been explaining, takes place, viz., that vir- 
tue cannot, on the principle of association, be loved disinterestedly. 
But do we not see daily how children who are virtuous, and love 
virtue, because of the association of good habits with the feeling of 
pleasure, and of bad with those of pain, come, thus, in the end to 
love virtue, as we say, for itself? It is a dubious expression per- 
haps to say that they learn to love it apart from pleasure ; for in all 
action, and in that which is the perfect realisation of moral recti- 
tude, there is an element of pleasure. A saintly Hebrew found his 
delight in doing God's will ; and doing God's will is, in Christ, con- 
sidered the summation of disinterestedness. In order that goodness 
should be loved for its own sake, Plato thought that it must be 
stripped of every other accompaniment. But in every theory of 
action we cannot divorce the act from the mere joy felt in the exer- 
cise of our powers when they are directed towards the attainment of 
the highest ends. And the fact that these energies are moral makes 
no difference in this respect. At this point disinterestedness and 
pleasure are identical, in the sense, just explained, that virtue ori- 
ginating in pleasure or pain, becomes disinterested through coalesc- 
ing experiences, the result of association. 

I have been thus explicit in my examination of the moral ele- 
ments in man, on account of the statement so often made, that con- 
science, or the laws it is supposed to deliver, are a revelation of God 
to man. It has been made plain, I think, that what is considered 
distinctively moral is natural in its source, and drawn from the re- 
lations of life around us, while the truths of revelation, as we shall 
afterwards find, are concerned primarily with other relations. In 
the preceding examination, it has not been thought necessary to give 


anything like a psychology of morals, or to enumerate the various 
ways in which moral relations are modified, whereby types of morality 
and standards of action fluctuate. Among these influences doubt- 
less stands, for us at least, the Christian religion, and the suscepti- 
bilities to which it appeals — a subject which in moral systems has 
not received the attention its importance demands. But the mode of 
operation of our moral activities upon the facts presented in Chris- 
tian life and character is essentially the same as the mode of its 
operation elsewhere. Although quite convinced that, as spheres of 
activity, the two are distinct, I am not prevented from conceiving 
the one as affecting the other, as we shall afterwards see is actually 
the case. The type of Christianity itself varies very much with the 
morality and general civilisation of a people, advancing with their 
advance, sinking with their degeneracy. And a similar interaction 
may very well be supposed to take place, on the other side, between 
religion and morals, in consequence of the complexion of the truths 
of revealed religion, for which moral elements form a basis, but for 
which the intellectual elements of our nature are likewise necessary. 
Both, however, as conditions of revelation need not be sources of 
it, and they have, as already shown, a far different development. 
It never could be said of any progress in human thought that the 
age could not have produced it, because every step in morals and in 
science is the necessary sequel to some observed or observable ante- 
cedent in the history of either. It is singularly true of Christianity, 
as well as of the whole course of revealed religion, that at any stage 
it may be said, the mere age alone could not have produced it. It is 
always, as we shall see, conditioned by the times in many ways ; 
but that which is most characteristic of it is not the outcome of a 
series of events apprehensible by sense experience. 



<( Die unsichtbare geistige Welt 1st nicht bios eine fur uns unsichtbare, sondern 
eine iiberbaupt sinnlioh schlechthin unwahrnebmbare." 

It may be asked, as is often done, If a spiritually revealing power be 
denied to the conscience and the external world by natural and 
sensible observation, are we not thrown back on some miraculous 
means for bringing the spiritual within human perception P 

From the conviction that nature, in the common sense experience 
of man, is uniform in its action up to the sum of its highest general- 
isations, all that can be concluded by the human intellect are the 
kosmical forms of antecedent and consequent, or oT co-existence. 
That a man or people be able to perceive what is beyond these, he 
or they must have a knowledge of facts that transcend these experi- 
ences, that is, in order that knowledge of a state or condition of 
things other than that of which sensible affections tell him can 
come to man, he must be affected by such a state. There must be 
the objective conditions and the subjective affections, as in ordinary 
sensible experience, somehow in relation to each other. 

The principle on which Hume based his doctrine regarding 
miracle is certainly the true induction from either mere natural or 
moral experience. To say that any revelation from God of the 
spiritual can come through these forms in their naturally constituted 
order and by sensible perception, is, as Hume would say, to con- 
tradict the universal experience of mankind, which is always with 
him, as with us, the universal sense experience. 

To say as some do, that nature herself can speak to our sensible 
perception and its related faculties of an intelligence is contrary to 
the verdict of those who best know her speech, who most have 
studied her, and who have the widest acquaintance with her laws 
and operations. The most instructive part of ancient thought and 
of modern investigation — to the pure theist at least, is the conclusion 
that both teach regarding the ultimate inferences that can be fairly 
and honestly made from sensible observation of natural phenomena 
— including under that expression the phenbmena presented by 
man, whether as an individual, or as a continuous race. Hume 


so far from stating a new principle, only placed an old one in a 
new relation. It would be absurd to deny the principle, and 
equally absurd on his own ground, tbat is, on sensible experience 
to deny its application. Nothing is credible which is contra- 
dictory to experience or at variance with laws of nature is, as has 
well been said, " the harmless proposition that whatever is con- 
tradictory to a complete induction is incredible."* That this is, 
philosophically, an heretical doctrine no man can affirm ; that it 
is on religious grounds heretical, it would be unwise to maintain, 
unless we are to hold that truth has not unity, which nearly 
all agree in saying it must have. The fact is, that unless induc- 
tion denied as credible the possibility of miracles, when opposed 
to the completed generalisation of a uniform, and well verified 
sensible experience, we are at a loss to see how the Divine could 
have been brought near to man at the first. We say, at the first, 
for it will appear in the course of our remarks, that the original 
necessity of miracles may not be a constant condition of a spiritual 
revelation, and that though at the beginning an evidence of the 
Divine, and perhaps an indispensable testimony to its presence, 
miracles may ultimately become unnecessary and even misleading. 
This, however, has nothing to do with our question of a primal re- 
velation, which became possible for man because occurrences were 
discerned in the natural facts and historical events of the world, 
inexplicable and incredible to a sense-given intelligence. We have 
heard it said with reference to such a conception, and particularly 
with reference to spiritual life among the Jews, that, in requiring 
miracles as proof of the Divine, they showed themselves so obtuse, 
that it was necessary, in a spiritual sense, " to thump them on the 
back." But who does not see that the commencement of all know- 
ledge is by a system of " thumping"? This is at some stages 
nature's method of teaching, and lessons of another kind than nature 
teaches need not necessarily be supposed to be conveyed in another 
way. If men had been all their days familiar with nature only, as 
we are now accustomed to view it, through scientific ideas, no know- 
ledge could have come to them beyond what strict science teaches — 
they never could have passed the barrier of secondary causes and 
the relations of sensible things to each other. In order that the 
idea of God might be brought home to {he human consciousness, 
something more than the course of nature, in whatever division we 

* J. S. Mill. 


may choose to consider that course, was necessary, for it is not true, 
as we have seen, that the idea of law, or the conception of design, 
can give us a consciousness of the Divine in sensible phenomena. 

If a spiritual revelation be a possible thing to all, and the most 
sceptical minds have never gone so far as to deny its possibility, 
it wonld appear that the mode of its manifestation must be that of 
revelation through, what I call, miracle. Miracle, at least as opposed 
to scientific observation and its results, is the fundamental conception 
underlying revelation. Revelation accordingly, in its very conception 
is separated from induction and is not subservient to its laws. It 
does not come within its gauge of credibility. It is not that the 
miraculous in its lowest conception, viz., its operation in nature, is 
contradictory to a universal law of nature known as causation. 
For when any one says that a miracle took place in a given instance, 
he is not to be held as maintaining that antecedent and consequent 
did not follow in such a case, but that the consequent did not 
follow on account of some counteracting antecedent. A miracle is 
no more, on this view of it (which, however, I am not careful to 
support, as being by no means its distinguishing feature), than the 
introduction of a new cause, and any dispute there can be in regard 
to it is not so much respecting the adequacy of this new cause as 
" concerning the existence of it in this particular instance." It 
cannot be said that the miraculous is d, priori impossible, for in 
regard to the question of revelation, for example, which is a form 
of it, we cannot start with a denial of its possibility. 

The dicta of science and religion on the question of the revela- 
tion of the Divine through miracles have been each correct within 
its own sphere of truth. It is for this reason that we can unhesita- 
tingly accept the conclusion made out by Hume, that no evidence, 
meaning testimony, according to logical estimation, can prove a 
miracle. Bat to bring it to such a test is to mistake the nature of 
the miraculous. And it is in doing this that Hume and almost all 
since his time on both sides of the question have been in error. Mr. 
Lecky (who restates Hume's argument in a form very slightly dif- 
fering from the original), in his "History of European Morals" says, 
" Miracles cannot be disproved but by observation, abstraction, and 
induction. They, like fairies, disappear, and we conclude them to 
be the fetish explanations of phenomena peculiar to the time. The 
common error," he continues, " in treating of miracles is to confine 
attention to the possibility of the fact and nature of the evidence ; 
we should also notice the predisposition of men in certain stages 


towards the miraculous, which makes an amount of evidence quite 
sufficient to establish a natural fact altogether inadequate to establish 
a supernatural one." And evidently in the same spirit, in his 
" Rationalism " he says quite truly that the tendency now is " to 
reject miraculous narratives," and again, in speaking of Christi- 
anity, that the "idea of the miraculous, deemed once its prominent 
characteristic, quivers now faintly through the mists of 1800 years." 
This "altered condition of belief," as it is called, solves effectually 
the question of miracles, without considering the arguments either 
for or against. The experience of modern times drops them 
naturally from the sum of experiences. This is precisely Hume's 
position, and Mr. Lecky's remark, that " an amount of evidence 
quite sufficient to establish a natural fact is altogether inadequate to 
establish a supernatural one," is what we have been insisting on, 
but with this addition — provided the evidence be of the same kind. 
It is therefore necessary to point out in opposition to Mr. Lecky 
that the idea of the possibility of a miracle, and the consideration of 
the nature of its evidence were, if properly carried out, not so far 
wrong, but were really the essential points in the question of miracles. 
His analogy of fetish explanations of phenomena and fairies is not 
quite happy. The fetish explanation so-called was a regular 
primitive scientific explanation of sensible experiences. It has not 
altogether disappeared, but still remains in a transition state in our 
present mode of thought, which is the natural sequence of that early 
method. Indeed " fetish explanation " is no peculiarity of any time, 
but an imperfect form of rational explanation universally applicable, 
and common to all times. Miracle, on the contrary, is the perception 
of the Divine in nature, the spiritual in the sensible. It appeals 
not to the sensible, but to the spiritual faculty of perception. The 
consideration of the nature of the evidence therefore, is, as I have 
said, imperative. The objective element of miracle such as revela- 
tion, for example, being the manifestation of the supernatural in the 
natural, cannot appeal to sensible experience because sensible ex- 
perience could not be affected by the manifestation. Its only appeal 
can be to the spiritual in man, which is the internal and subjective 
element of all spiritual manifestation. 

It is sometimes said that it is to the connection of physical causes 
and kosmical order that we should look for evidences of the Divine 
existence and perfections.* But this is both contradictory to the 

Baden Powell. 


principles elsewhere laid down by this writer, and is, besides, contra- 
dictory to the nature of the truth to be evidenced. We must, accord- 
ing to Baden Powell, keep strictly to physical induction in physical 
science, and in religions inquiry to what he calls moral proof, but we 
ought never to confound the two ; and again he says, " when we follow 
observation and induction we are led to science." But how, in this 
case, can it be said that the evidence of natural religion depends on 
physical knowledge, if all that physical investigation rigidly followed 
out gives, as this writer says (and, as we think, says with truth), is 
physical science, that is, an ordered knowledge of our sensible ex- 
perience of external phenomena ? We cannot in this experience sur- 
mount the intimations given to us from nature, but these intimations 
are only the sensible affections created in us by the phenomena with- 
out us, and which may be reduced to the two classes of succession 
and co-existence. To base on these intimations of the senses argu- 
ments for the existence of a world, and a state of things outside the 
sensible sphere, can, I think, be demonstrated to be impossible. 

It may be held as confirmed by common experience, at least as 
never yet attained through mere sense experience, that between 
" matter and spirit, visible and invisible, time and eternity, sense 
and faith, the connection is not perceptible to human observation." 
We push our researches to the extreme verge of nature, and those 
who reach the farthest bound in this direction find themselves 
abruptly stopped short, and, if quite ingenuous, they will confess 
that in this line of inquiry they are stopped short, so far as they 
know, by an immeasurable gulf, that separates the creature from the 
Creator. It is quite possible, although an entirely different thing, 
that when we have received this supreme spiritual idea, we may 
find evidences confirmatory of, and consonant with, the reality of 
such an idea in natural facts. But these are not the source of the 
proof. It is only what we would expect, that an idea of such a na- 
ture, once perceived, would be fruitful in its results, even in spheres 
of truth which could not have evolved it. This in no way affects the 
fact, however, that the spiritual is above all that science can teach 
or induce primarily from the materials that nature supplies. It is 
in a world which science cannot realise, simply because the objects 
which compose that world are not presented to its view. Revelation 
of the spiritual is essentially beyond the physical, outside its province, 
and is not subject to its criteria. Miracle, which is an essential ele- 
ment of all such revelation, is consequently outside the physical 
sphere. In itself, it really does not consist in physical interruption, 


as is generally imagined, and cannot, therefore, conflict with physical 
science. Physical science may judge it beyond its province, and in 
doing so is true to its pursuits ; but it is false to the wide interests 
of truth when it advances beyond the physical, and pronounces on 
the general impossibility of miracle or revelation. 

The true position of miracles has been lost sight of since the 
argument entered the domain of science and philosophy. It is 
not debatable on these grounds, but must be carried into the 
region of spiritual experience. When it is urged in the philosophical 
argument, " that the extreme case of a conflict between two sup- 
posed laws of nature has probably never actually occurred, where in 
the process of investigating both the laws, the true canons of 
scientific induction had been kept in view, but if it did occur, it 
must terminate in the total rejection of one of the supposed laws, 
— it would prove, in short,- that there must be a flaw in the logical 
process ; and if this be so, the supposed general truth is no truth at 
all ; " and also, that " we cannot admit a proposition as a law of na- 
ture and yet believe a fact in real contradiction to it ; we must dis- 
believe the alleged fact, or believe that we were mistaken in admit- 
ting the supposed law : " * it is so far necessary to reply, that we 
need neither in some cases disbelieve the alleged fact, nor believe 
that we were mistaken in the supposed law. I is true that the 
logician on his principles of verification, and grounding himself on 
the facts of a sensible consciousness, must, with a sensible fact and 
a generalisation from sensible experience, do either the one or 
other ; but any one basing his position on a true and complete view 
of man, as a being with spiritual as well as sensible affections and 
experiences, need not in the case of a miracle, which is the case 
under consideration in the passage I have quoted, do either. For a 
miracle is not necessarily anti-natural and contradictory to any law 
of nature ; it is a Divine fact, perceptible by the spiritual conscious- 
ness. The physicist may walk through nature and retrace the steps 
of history, and in so doing reject the Divine elements that have 
been found to be given through both to the spiritual consciousness of 
man. He can only do so, however, by first of all rejecting the fact 
of the consciousness of the Divine. For this is the point on which 
everything turns in the controversy. It is not so much the denial 
of the first facts that is of importance ; that is merely a consequence 
of the general denial that man has not " the consciousness of a life 

* J. S. Mill. 


in God distinct from the consciousness of a life in the eternal world/ 1 
and along with this, the denial also that he who is thus conscious, is 
at the same time conscious, that his conception of God and the 
Divine generally, is not received from the external world and its 
sensible forms, but from God, who reveals Himself to the spiritual 
perception in these and various ways. It is, however, held by some 
theologians that although miracles are not subject to scientific con- 
dition, they are primarily subject to historic evidence. But it would 
be well to know what historic evidence includes. In reality, to 
make miracles subject to historic evidence, you must ultimately bring 
them to the test of that very method of scientific experiment of 
which we have been speaking. It is not enough to say that 
" historic facts belong to a sphere of their own and rest on their own 
character and appropriate proof; " * for after it has been settled by 
the evidence of those who witnessed a miracle, that they have re- 
lated what they believe to be true, the event, considered as such, is 
still liable to a further test. It might, for example, be held to be 
the result of some other cause than that certified by the witnesses. 
Besides, it may happen that the fact, in addition to being what is 
called a contingent historical fact, can also be regarded in its phy- 
sical aspect as a scientific fact ; and in this case, if it is to come 
within the sphere of the laws of external phenomena, I cannot see 
how the historian is at liberty to refuse to verify it. Most of the New 
Testament miracles, for example, were mediated through what are 
now understood to be scientific facts ; and if these miracles are 
within the range of physical order, they must be equally true at all 
times, and be constantly subject to revision. Although in historic 
forms, they are in this instance records of scientific belief based 
on the observation of the period to which they belong, and must be 
judged according to all rules of fair verification in science, as, for 
example, that any law received on what appears to be a full in- 
duction, can only be rejected on equivalent evidence — that even an 
historic assertion is not to be credited on any less evidence, than 
what would suffice to overthrow the law to which the evidence re- 
lates ; so that, as already noticed, the admission of pure historic evi- 
dence comes in the last resort to the admission of a scientific test, 
and what is more, " must lead us, if we are consistent, in accepting 
all that is supported by creditable testimony." Looking at these 
rules and facts, historic evidence is only a preliminary to scientific 

* Principal Tulloch. 


verification, and is liable to the same objections, when applied as the 
sole criterion of spiritual truth. It is incorrect in the sphere of re- 
velation, and, as stated by those who uphold its authority in this 
matter, it is not philosophical. It would not only deprive us of a 
scientific test in sensible experience, but of a test in spiritual experi- 
ence and Divine facts, while it leaves us at the mercy of witnesses 
who cannot be interrogated, and from whom we can only protect 
ourselves, if we are to be protected at all, by these indirect means. 

Miracles, as a form of Divine revelation, cannot be brought within 
the sphere of the natural, either through scientific experience or 
historic testimony ; nor can it be antagonistic to it. The funda- 
mental idea of miracle is not that of Divine interference with ordi- 
nary events. We nowhere see this later conception of it in the 
records of the New Testament. It is rather that of the Divine in 
God manifesting itself to the Divine in man, by the mediation of 
these natural events. It is an opening of the kingdom of God, 
which no man can see, " except he is born again," as the spiritual 
consciousness is paraphrased. Any manifestation whatsoever re- 
quires a mode in which this may be accomplished ; and one of the 
modes of the manifestation of which we are speaking is the external 
world ; and this manifestation, quite as much as another, requires also 
the necessary preliminary in all, viz., an enlightened perception, — in 
the instance before us, an enlightened spiritual perception in those to 
whom the revelation is made known : " Ye must be born again." 

Miracle being thus a revelation of the Divine, it is quite probable 
that if the savants, whom Renan would wish to witness the experi- 
ment of the miracles repeated, saw the experiment, they would per- 
ceive no more than the secondary causes. It is a mistake to go the 
length of some, and maintain that the Divine could not now be thus 
manifested. If this be the case, it is so because a more perfect 
manifestation has superseded a less perfect. But however this may 
be, in Christ's miracles, for example, the sensible facts were not 
transformed in any non-natural manner. Secondary causes, for all 
we can see, might still operate, and sensible results be all that was 
apparent to the visual or tangible perception of the bystanders. 
What was Divine in them could not be subjected to the critical and 
scientific investigation of the savants or others, and could not be put 
through their alembic It was unveiled to the spiritual gaze of men. 
It is because men forget this view of them, which is Christ's and not 
ours, that we have so many explanations — rational, e.g., which is 
inevitable from the standpoint of common experience ; mythical and 


legendary, which is a confusion of miracle with the mythological 
development of science. 

Miracles hare attained a signification which is decidedly modern 
when they are conceived as the opposite of law, in the scientific 
sense of that term — as produced by spasmodic Divine interposition. 
Their basis is rather the idea that Divine action is the rule, and not 
the exception. Miracle is not really a miracle to all minds ; it is 
only so when it is considered as abnormal, and abnormal in being un- 
perceived by ordinary observation. As the spiritual expression of a 
Divine fact, it is considered by the spiritual consciousness to beany- 
thing but abnormal. Take a case in illustration of what we mean, 
and one cited by Dean Lyall in his " Propaedia Prophetica." The 
destruction of Babylon, recorded by Herodotus, is a great historical 
event whose causes we can investigate and perhaps reduce to some 
sociological law ; at least, we could do so were we sufficiently ac- 
quainted with the facts previous to, or contemporaneous with, the 
event. In the Bible we see it under an entirely different aspect. 
It appears there as a miracle, Dean Lyall says, " because the pro- 
phecies which preceded it connected it with the immediate agency 
of God." And the same writer concludes that for this reason it 
was different from the destruction of Syracuse, etc. But this is 
just the mistake of which I speak. Even if the one were predicted, 
and the other not foreseen by man, we are not to conclude that both 
were not equally known to God, although not alike foretold to man. 
On the contrary, the conclusion to every one who accepts the fact of 
the Divine is, that both were known to God, and that the spiritual 
was in the one no less than in the other, although not unveiled. 
Therefore, to the sensible intelligence, both would be miracles ; to 
the Divine consciousness neither is miraculous. The event as fore- 
told is not, properly speaking, different from the event apparently 
occurring in ordinary natural sequence. In the first instance, the 
only difference is, that to spiritual observation the secrets of nature 
are laid bare, a Divine revelation is unfolded through her, the 
spiritual side of her operations is manifested. 

Christ's miracles may be regarded as in a manner predictive with 
something added — they were what the writer in the Epistle to the 
Hebrews calls " powers of the world to come," energies of a world 
other than those of the natural. The same expressions are used by 
the evangelists in speaking of Christ's work ; as, for example, when 
they tell of " energy " going out of Him upon a multitude ; and 
again, " Jesus, knowing in Himself that virtue (fivvapip) had gone 


oat of Him, turned Him about. 1 ' We do not seek to define these 
" powers (&vpdfi€is) of the world to come " further than that they 
are spiritual manifestations ; but it is possible, that among other 
things they may be, as we have said, a kind of prophecies of those 
things that shall yet take place in the extended spiritual world that 
is to be, veiled from us now, except for the fact of their Divine 
nature, even as many of those prophecies that came of old were con- 
cealed from the men of the time in which they were uttered. We 
have intimations — we cannot well call them more — both in the Old 
Testament and the New, that the spiritual elements and the material 
throughout the whole creation round are linked together in such 
close affinity that the introduction of a discordant principle in the 
higher has worked itself out in unseen ways, but in visible and 
certain results upon the lower, so that we may take literally the 
statement of St. Paul, " the whole creation groaneth and travaileth 
in pain together until now ; " and these miracles may be foreshadow- 
ings of the deliverance of the material world — types of the coming 
time of which Isaiah sung, when nature and man shall be in har- 
mony, and given to us in measure in the time that now is, that we 
" through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope." 

But whatever importance may be attached to such expectations, 
and whatever else the miracles of Christ may contain, they were 
primarily the unveilings of the Divine ; and this fact, as we have 
already said, the keenest physical perception could not see at the 
time, nor can it see now. At first the Divine was not perceived by 
many of Christ's own immediate followers, but only the " wonderful 
work," the antecedent and the consequent — the sequence of events. 
To outward observation nothing could be more natural than this. 
But to those whose spiritual perception was strengthened, the Di- 
vine in these natural facts shone forth. It was then made cognisable 
to man that in these acts the Divine Word was revealing itself. The 
veil of the natural, always visible, was withdrawn, and the spiritual, 
that is generally invisible, was displayed, but only to the vision 
fitted to behold it. 

In the special revelation in Scripture, there is made known to 
us a spiritual Being, who operates in our spiritual life and sphere, 
and who in the history of man has discovered Himself working 
through natural life. In miracles, men have seen by spiritual vision, 
not by sensible (for in this way they cannot see these things), that 
which is behind all natural events, whether in the external world or 
n man or nations. This question of miracles is not one that should 


be discussed on the individual miracles of the Old Testament or the 
New. It should be tried on the general and decisive platform of a 
revelation. Settled there, it settles the main difficulties of this 
problem. If miracle be found impossible there, then we may dis- 
card all others as inconsequent. If, on the contrary, it is found to 
be essential there, the metaphysical, logical, and historical diffi- 
culties, so far as our discussion is concerned, are of comparatively 
little importance. And we can discuss this question on the ground 
of experience, on which it has been raised. Hume's argument, on 
its own basis, we found to be unanswerable. The answers that 
have been given to it, have been acknowledged by most to be at 
least unsatisfactory. But we can bring experience to attest, which 
is the very thing that Hume desiderates. For what is the point in 
dispute P Is it not that we have no experience of the operations of 
other causes, or whatever else they may be called, than those that 
produce the ordinary modifications in the sensible life of man ; that 
we have sensation, perception, memory, belief, etc. ; that the outer 
world affects us so and so, and that is all ? We cannot object to 
this psychology. It is quite true as far as it goes, but it does not 
go far enough. There is a higher psychological action, if we may 
so speak, not independent of this, but over and above it, which is 
likewise experienced by men, and of which the sensible psychology 
gives no account. There are impressions produced upon men from 
a sphere outside that of the visual, the tactual, or any other form 
of the merely sensible sphere. In intercourse with the Christian 
revelation, for instance, we have the immediate consciousness and 
perception of something distinct from sensible experience, and which 
constitutes an inner spiritual experience as real and individual and 
disparate as that based upon our contact with the external universe. 
And since we have this spiritual experience in any measure, the fact 
that it may have been given in larger measure to some is easily 
conceivable. But, at any rate, the fact remains that there is some- 
thing such as we have tried to describe which affects us, and some- 
thing in us capable of being thus affected — that this something does 
not come within the ordinary sequence of intellectual observation ; 
that the expression of it by the natural man and in sensible language 
is the miraculous — the formula of the spiritual man, and in spiritual 
language is the Divine. The present experiences of this sphere o( 
being must be held as confirmatory of the experience of those who 
enjoyed it in former times, and of the record of it which they have 
left to us, even as the sensible experience of men of £he present day 



is confirmatory of past experience of the same order, which has led 
to the conception of uniformity in natural life, as opposed to the 
miraculous in spiritual life. These two constitute a twofold experi- 
ence running parallel to one another — perhaps, more properly, form- 
ing the warp and woof of man's complex existence. 

The general reasoning on this question is based on what, in view 
of man's constitution, we cannot but think a fatal presumption, 
viz., that all truth is bound together in a linear series. The con- 
ception is that of a gradation of sciences running into each other, 
and culminating in the highest. If, however, we have experience 
of a spiritual affection confirming the spiritual experience of former 
times, — that is, a spiritual affection of our spiritual, or inner being, 
distinct from an affection from outward things, — we have given us, 
to use the most general language that we can think of, an operative 
agency in the world that is distinct from sensible force — a cause, to 
borrow a leading term from the vocabulary of science, which reveals 
itself in our spiritual life, and is known, like other causes, by its 
results or affections in ourselves, that is, known precisely as all facts 
are known ; and this, we think, is all that is necessary for proof of 
the existence of any fact. Given an operative spiritual power — we 
say spiritual to distinguish it from sensible, and we use power in its 
most abstract sense — given this operative power, and what can we 
say about its operating or not operating upon the phenomena around 
us ? Absolutely nothing. We know not the relation between mind 
and matter, and as little need we expect to know the relation be- 
tween spiritual life and matter. We cannot tell how matter affects 
our spiritual state, nor how our mental affections act on matter ; 
nor need we wonder at our ignorance of the modus operandi of 
spiritual power. The fact that it is, settles, at all events the meta- 
physical difficulty of the possibility or impossibility of its acting 
or not acting. The experience that spiritual men have now, and 
always have had, of a Divine affection, refutes the historical or 
experimental objection of uniformity. The argument from human 
testimony, and that from uniformity in nature, are at bottom really 
one and the same, both being grounded on sensible experience, the 
one individual, the other general. If it be said that men now- a- day a 
have no experience of the Divine in nature, but, on the contrary, of 
uniformity, may it not be replied, that it is not necessary, in order 
to establish the operation of a cause, or the recurrence of any 
phenomenon (I am here compelled for illustration to use the 
language of science as the only intelligible phraseology), that every 


person should have actual experience of the one or the other ? We 
have not had experience of the unbroken uniformity of nature, be- 
cause we have not known everything in nature ; yet we predicate 
uniformity in the sensible world, because the experience of men 
like constituted has hitherto been the same as our own. It is a 
conclusion of our own experience, plus the experience of others, 
both anterior and posterior to us, in the same sphere of experi- 
ence. We could not each have the experience necessary for this 
generalisation. We could not all have the experience of some 
sensible events exceedingly uncommon, such, for example, as rare 
celestial phenomena; but because these occurrences are unusual, 
and, therefore, necessarily confined to the experience of a few, we 
do not reject them. We accept them, because they fall in with our 
general experience in that and other fields of experience. It is a 
similar test that is needed in the case of miracle regarded as a 
revelation of the Divine. We may not have experience of miracles 
as they formerly occurred. They are rare, but they may agree 
(and this is a matter for the spiritual consciousness to decide) with 
our general experience of the same class of Divine events ; and if 
we accept them, we do so, not as wonders in a spiritual sense, but 
as concomitants of the general Divine consciousness. It may be 
objected that we can account for physical facts, however rare their 
occurrence may be, while no one pretends in the same way to 
account for miracles. But it would be well to observe what this 
accounting for amounts to. Is it not confessedly this, that a cer- 
tain antecedent, or series of antecedents, precede a given occurrence, 
and not that there was any real efficient cause P But is there not 
proof equally good in the case of spiritual events ? Can we not 
account for them by a spiritual antecedent, which, acting again in 
like manner, will as inevitably produce the same results ? We are 
not at present arguing on the supposition of a will operating in 
nature, but of a spiritual manifestation through physical facts. 
The idea of volition, which has been thought to account scientifically 
for miracles on the platform of sensible experience, could never 
have attained the importance, which, as a theory, it has gained with 
some, had it not been for the widespread belief in the arbitrary 
nature of volitional acts that lies at the foundation of it. The 
order of nature may, for anything we know, be the result of the 
constant exercise of will in that sphere of the Divine activity. Its 
regularity does not hinder us from ascribing it to volition. . There 
is nothing with which we are more accustomed in mental life than 

G 2 



a series of acts, dependent on volition, occurring regularly and 
orderly, and, as some might erroneously conclude, instinctively, or, 
at least, independent of will. Besides, in the case of events treated 
constantly, both for philosophical and practical purposes, as the 
products of volitional acts, viz., those of a sociological nature, we 
postulate laws and find out general expressions for groups of facts, 
and for their methods of occurrence, showing very plainly a convic- 
tion, on our part, of regularity in voluntary as well as in involuntary 
activities. If, accordingly, regularity and order be the expression 
of will, it is impossible to bring in will likewise as the explanation 
of what is termed irregularity and interruption. The instance of a 
father with a child may serve as an example of what I mean. The 
child can calculate upon the temper, and action, and behaviour, of 
the father, which are yet volitional, and if the father behave at any 
time in an apparently strange manner, such conduct will be found 
to be, not arbitrary and uncaused, and preceded by no connecting 
antecedent, but a natural sequence, as before, to some explicable cause. 
Those who explain miracle, because of its apparent want of unifor- 
mity, by volition, would require, in the first place, to prove that the 
acts of the will are arbitrary and lawless ; a psychology which is not 
only in itself open to dispute, but which, when taken in connection 
with natural events, is not true to sensible experience. The voluntary 
acts of men when exercised upon external nature, ought, according 
to this psychology, to produce miraculous results, and yet in reality 
they produce calculable and natural effects, as the daily work of every 
man testifies. The former's tillage is quite volitional, but no mira- 
culous consequence ensues ; and the sum of natural order everywhere 
is the outcome of voluntary and involuntary action. The distinction 
between voluntary and involuntary is not that of irregularity and 
regularity, but merely that of some variety in the elements of con- 

The explanation of miracles by the voluntative action of the 
Deity, is really an explanation of a spiritual phenomenon by sensible 
experience, and liable to all the general objections already stated 
when criticising such explanations. On the other hand, it should be 
observed by those who try only sensible explanations, that because 
we hear of no miracles now, it is not legitimate to conclude against 
them having been. Men, at present, question miracles as they 
occurred in Christ's day, for example ; but it is surely not perfectly 
ational, when this present non-belief is transferred to a different 
time and other circumstances. The method thus pursued is erron- 


eons. We are not in the babit of saying that such a sensible phe- 
nomenon could never be, at least no exact physicist would say so, 
bat rather, given its accompaniments, let us see if it could be. It is 
quite true that we cannot repeat Christ's age and life, neither can 
we experiment with any historical era — with moral or spiritual 
phenomena, as we can do with the elements of nature. The his- 
torical is not cyclical like nature. I do not mean that nature is 
cyclical in form, for it is ever diverse, but merely that it can be 
treated as such, in the combination of parts on which science is 
based. The side of nature that appeals to our sentiment of beauty, 
as contrasted with that which appeals to our intellectual faculties, 
and gives rise to scientific observation, is quite separable in thought. 
Nature in this last relation may be experimented upon, and be made 
to repeat herself. History both of what is spiritual and moral is, on 
the contrary, progressive. We have not only to inquire, therefore, 
about the occurrence of a phenomenon, but also about the type which 
it would assume in a distant epoch under circumstances very unlike 
the present. Bocks, we suppose, if we are to have a science of them, 
were wasted and upheaved millions of years ago just as they are 
now. The Divine, when the faculty in man for its perception was 
in the merest rudimentary state, and unconsciousness, or something 
approaching it, might fitly describe its condition, would be manifested 
in a manner slightly different from its manifestations after further 
development had been reached. The means by which the spiritual 
startled man into the consciousness of its existence would not be 
precisely the same, perhaps, as that, by which it might be alternately 
sustained and strengthened in him. Mediated agencies might be 
necessary at the first, which were afterwards found to be useless. 
The spiritual in man might outgrow these early channels of Divine 
communications, as we shall see in the course of development that 
it did. His present means of life, even, may hereafter prove any- 
thing but nourishment to the perfected spiritual man of the future* 
As the boy grows, he outgrows what formerly ministered to his 
intellectual nature. The man feels these early helps to be weights 
instead of wings. That which taught the dawning spiritual power of 
early men may have nothing to say to us, unless the bare fact, that 
through it the Divine came home to these primitive men ; in other 
words, the heart of its teaching, and not its form, may be what 
remains. If we are to develop spiritually as well as mentally, a wider 
world of spiritual truth is the inevitable condition of such advance- 
ments. The " beggarly elements " are necessary as a preliminary, 


because they have in them that which is essentially contained in the 
highest principles ; but it is not necessary to rest in these elements. 
The "schoolmaster," whether he be in the form of miracle, or written 
authority, or plain enactment, must leave us if we are to come to 
anything. He can only train us to a certain point, and after that, 
experience, observation, and all the appliances of life, must be our 
teachers. The possibility is, that we shall, as boys often enough do, 
excel our "schoolmaster," and the likelihood in that case is, that the 
"schoolmaster," even as the proud teacher, will rejoice in our 
superiority. He brought us to our fuller, freer life, and made its 
ultimate stages possible. 

These early spiritual lessons of which I speak were the school- 
masters to bring men to Christ. What may seem to us, now that we 
are older, clumsy and external means, were used at school to aid our 
early efforts ; whipping if necessary sometimes. And to Christians, 
looking back from the glorious liberty of spiritual law and the 
experiences of a life that is "hid with Christ in God," former 
appliances in the spiritual school cannot but appear rude and 
artificial; but they may have been, for the times they were used* 
none the less real and effective. The appliances and the results 
appear in fact to correspond. The idea of the Divine once familiar to 
man will, like other ideas, be developed in many ways, and be after- 
wards found in events and experiences that before seemed without 
such an element, simply because the necessary cultivated spiritual 
perception did not before exist; just as the man of keen powers 
of sensible observation will find instances to confirm his conclusions 
where, before his powers reached such a degree of keenness, he never 
would have dreamed of looking for them. It is in this way that the 
spiritual consciousness perceives in the regularity, and what are 
called the laws of nature, an expression of the Divine. These laws 
are not to it the ultimate results ; they do not sum up the whole 
facts. There is an element, it is felt, that has escaped mere scientific 
observation and is not subject to its test of variations, which, for 
the spiritual man, cannot be thrown out by any scientific elimination, 
nor, we may add, evolved by any amount of scientific observation. 

It is on something like the volitional theory above described, that 
Schleiermacher and others base their argument from certain con- 
sequences that are supposed to follow the introduction of a new 
element into the system of the universe. But the shining of re- 
velation into the world-history need not necessarily be conceived, as 
Schleiermacher conceives it in his representation of miracles. It 


is perfectly true, as he says, that the governance of the world is 
conducted under general laws, and that any result is produced by 
the totality of the ultimate causes — that nothing is introduced into 
the course of nature that would destroy its harmony. But we have 
to know what that harmony is before we can say that it is dis- 
turbed. Our ears may be at fault, and we may, in this way, take a 
lower effect as a perfect result. Or it may be, that without de- 
stroying the harmony, richer chords and finer tones are introduced 
into the music of nature. It is quite possible, however, to draw 
imaginary pictures, as some have done, of the effects of new causes 
introduced into the sum of existent natural causes ; and these repre- 
sentations are rendered all the more fictitious from the fact, that the 
phraseology used, is deceptive. The shining forth, in these so-called 
causes, of a new manifestation and order of life, need not be pro- 
ductive of the extraordinary results thus pourtrayed. At least, we 
can see the practical effects produced on civilisation, and morals, and 
life in general by the introduction of revelation into our world ; but 
these are not so discordant as we might be led from hypothesis 
merely to believe they would be, and they become in themselves 
calculable and appreciable when translated into ordinary action. 
Besides, the action of the supernatural, or as we prefer to call it 
the Divine, is to the spiritual man as normal as the action of the 
natural or sensible to the scientific mind, and the response to it in 
man's constitution is a normal action of that constitution. Indeed, 
this is the characteristic feature of the Jewish and Christian 
revelation. This is the mark of the Christian religion, and that 
which separates it from other historical religions. Other religions 
were limited in their origin. They issued from within — were in a 
great measure subjective, and, in short, the reflex of the general 
mental activities of different nationalities. They were the result 
of special modes of thought, the expression of states of feeling. 
The reality and normal character of the Christian revelation, resting 
on a series of objective revelations as genuine as the manifestations 
of external nature, and appealing to subjective spiritual elements 
in man, fitted it for becoming as widespread and diffusive a light 
to our spiritual nature as the light of the outer world is to our 
sentient frame. It is all embracing ; it is a spiritual environment, 
to which our spiritual being may, through prolonged experience, 
correspond, with which it may ultimately harmonise as perfectly, 
as our bodily organism tends to harmonise with, and respond to, 
the elements in physical life. 


" The lamp of the Lord is the soul of man." 

This conclusion of the preceding chapter is flatly denied by those 
who consider physical phenomena as the only facts known, or pos- 
sible to be known, by man. The whole reasoning of those who 
designate that which is beyond science and sense experience the 
unknowable, and who represent spiritual knowledge as the poetical 
or idealised conceptions of sense, is based upon two assumptions : 
in the first place, that there is no such sphere of experience ; and 
in the second place, that if there be, the Being who embraces in 
Himself the sum of these experiences is so different from man, that 
He could not reveal Himself to our race. The first negative, how- 
ever, becomes positive in another form, being introduced under 
cover of metaphysics ; in regard to the second, we have yet to learn 
that the development of spiritual faculties may not be as real as 
the development of what are commonly called moral and sensible 
powers. The comparatively modern conception of evolution, which 
is thought by some to explain the growth of those parts of our 
constitution that correspond to the kingdoms of natural and moral 
relations, is not without an apparent analogy in that sphere of our 
being which corresponds to what, in later times, has received the 
designation of the kingdom of heaven. 

In sense experience and moral relations it is well known to 
psychologists, that the range of sensibility in man to these relations 
is very wide and varied, and proportioned to the integration of 
sensible impressions conveyed from without, according to ascertained 
mental laws. The necessary conditions of the growth of all such 
faculties from the lowest to the highest state are the primordial 
capacity of being affected, and the presence of objects exciting this 
capacity. The first stage of this sensible consciousness in man 
was, most probably, that which is now seen in very low orders of 
life — a mere vague and indefinite response. The moral conscious- 
ness came later, and is still much less precise and well-defined. The 
spiritual consciousness was later still and less general, and to this 


day has only a limited development. The fact that its experiences 
are questioned by some is significant of this. It may be said of 
many of onr contemporaries, as is quite plain of many more in early 
times, that their consciousness is a great blank on supersensuous 
things. In the latter case the reason is not far to seek. No such 
world had yet been unveiled to this higher consciousness to pro- 
duce a motion on its undisturbed repose. If we can conceive such a 
state, it is as if beings with potential senses, and mental perceptive 
powers corresponding, were placed where no communication reached 
«them from without — where no sun was felt shooting its rays of 
light to touch the nerves of sight — where no object ever impinged 
upon their tactile sensitivities — where no obstacle impeded their 
muscular energies, and motion could not be discerned by any marks 
of progression — where no sound, or, what would be the same thing, 
where one unchanging note fell upon their ears — where no odour 
irritated their nerves of smell, — where, in short, no external world 
corresponded to, or met, the internal sensibilities. Imagine auch a 
case as this ! Imagine sensible and percipient life in such relations, 
and what would be the natural result ? What could such beings 
understand by consciousness of sensible objects, as we now under- 
stand the expression ? What could they know of perceptions as we 
now know of them P Instead of the highly developed perceptive 
powers which we now possess, and the fine and intricate rationalis- 
ing processes of which we are now capable ; instead of the vast 
fields of science which man through sensible perception of an ex- 
ternal world has explored, there would be insensibility, irrationality 
nescience. Nor is this a deduction from some assumed principle, 
as may be supposed. 

The development of life in every sphere has been a development 
through the presence of those conditions which we have here con- 
sidered absent. Besides, the representation which I have given, is 
borne witness to from an opposite point of view, viz., from many 
observed facts in the degeneration of life. There are known to na- 
turalists, animals whose powers of sight are good when in favourable 
conditions for their exercise, but who, by exclusion from the action 
of light in some subterranean cavern, have been found, at least for 
a considerable time after removal from that place, to be incapable 
of receiving intimations through an organ which, to all outward 
appearance, remained as perfect as before its exclusion from the 
occasions of its activity. And there are instances in which faculties 
through their non-exertion, or from absence of the means and oppor- 


tunities for such exertion, have either become practically useless, or 
have been changed to some allied organs, which have been more 
frequently called into play. With facts like these before us in the 
natural world, we need not be astonished, that the potential spiritual 
consciousness of man, set amid what appealed strongly to the sen- 
sible and moral capacities, with all traces of the spiritual absent, 
if they had ever been there — or if you believe some, with only the 
faintest shadowings of it lingering in the earth, — did not, in these 
circumstances, grow. Even when the spiritual was revealed, judg- 
ing from the analogical cases we have mentioned, it is no matter 
of surprise that in many, instead of unfolding the capacity for 
the Divine, it should only be changed into the allied faculties of 
physical and moral sensitiveness merely. The attempt, often made 
in the present day, to resolve the religious element in man, and its 
sphere of manifestation, into questions within the domain, either of 
science or metaphysical philosophy, is largely a result of the con- 
tinuous activity of men in the latter directions, and their inactivity 
in, and consequent insensibility to, what is Divine ; or of their 
confusion of the indefinite movements of the spiritual conscious- 
ness, with the more defined and persistent motions of ordinary 
conscious experience. But, while holding that the spiritual con- 
sciousness of man was weak, there is no reason to question the 
fact, that in the spiritual nature of men of early times (as well as 
in that of all of us) there were the possibilities of what was yet 
undeveloped; just as in mental and moral life, however primi- 
tive, we recognise any germinating faculty of the same order, no 
matter how unlike its later growth it may be. But these pos- 
sibilities of spiritual life-power had to be placed in a world of super- 
sensuous or spiritual phenomena ; the consciousness of this sphere of 
life had to be touched, as it were, by the objects of the supernatural. 
Before this, the world's great heart lay insensible, or nearly so, to 
all these things. Its Divine consciousness was, at best, only a 
potentiality. But there were chords in it, undreamt of, whose vi- 
brations were yet to awaken a new and strange experience in the 
race. A world unseen and for ever invisible to sense, — not waiting, 
as is imagined, the advance of science, — is to be revealed to man ; and 
with that apocalypse there was to come, as its necessary concomitant, 
an unveiling of the Divine consciousness in the human spirit. A 
new creation is at hand, — for we shall see some reason to apprehend 
that revelation is, in a profound sense, a creation, transcending in 
design the vast material creation. A light is to arise upon our spirit* 


ual sphere, of which the light that heralded the work of creation 
was but the symbol ; and by this " Son of Righteousness " there is to 
be displayed to the Divine consciousness in man, the beauty and the 
loveliness, the order and magnificence of a spiritual world, of which 
the varied beauty of the sensible, is in a great measure the shadow. 
The development of man is everywhere seen to be from the simple 
to the more complex. First animal powers, then intellectual, then 
moral, then spiritual, expanding as each new stage brings him within 
the sweep of new relations. He had to be led through the vestibule 
of the earthly and sensible to the abiding glory of the heavenly and 
spiritual. He was learning for awhile the thoughts that the visible 
and tangible could teach him through his sensible consciousness ; but 
now he is to have revealed, through his consciousness of the Divine, 
the thought of the spiritual and invisible. The fullest revelation of 
this, and the greatest step in the evolution of the Divine consciousness 
in man, was made through Christ, who came as appointed, in order- 
that "the thoughts of many hearts" might be revealed. It is this 
turning point in spiritual development that we have had specially 
before us in our account of the spiritual capacity in man ; but, as we 
shall see, this process of external manifestation and inner capacity 
had been going on during what is commonly called the Jewish 
dispensation, and conditioned the fuller manifestation in Christ. 
The manifestation which we have seen that the world required for 
the awakening of its spiritual consciousness, — the vivifying of its 
faculties for the perception of the Divine, was supplied in the institu- 
tions and teachings of that nation. This was the beginning of the 
revelation of the invisible which aroused the first faint consciousness 
of spiritual life, — a consciousness that gradually became strengthened 
and co-ordinated as the time for the coming of the great Bevealer 
drew near. It is by this conception, that, what have been called, the 
moral and spiritual difficulties of the early development in the Old 
Testament are to be explained. In reality, they are not difficulties 
at all, but facts explicable enough. In the evolution of spiritual re- 
velation, as in the evolution of anything else, the earlier and imma- 
ture stages are not regarded as contradictory of the later and more 
perfect, but explanatory of them. We would not, on this or kindred 
subjects, consciously choose the line of argument not unfrequently 
taken up, and reason " from what we might expect." We are not 
doing so in the present case ; we are arguing from experience. We 
confess always to some misgiving when a proposal is made, in the- 
ology or elsewhere, to show that something or other, e.g., some alleged 


contradiction, is consistent with onr expectations and the character 
of Divine revelation. The feet is, we cannot with any truth be said 
to have any expectations on such a subject at all. The thing is 
before us, and by projecting ourselves into a past time when no such 
thing existed, we are naturally inclined to carry with us the ex- 
pectations of what we have since realised : our prejudices prevent 
us from making any attempt to improve upon it. Such a mode of 
argument is very easy. We read of the actual, and call it for the 
occasion the expectant, and then cry out, " How singular ! the very 
thing we should have looked for ! " 

The met of a power of spiritual discernment in man through an 
awakened spiritual life is very clearly illustrated by Christ in the 
conversation with Nicodemus, which has been already iocidentally 
referred to. The whole scene, in which the truth there stated is set, 
is full of instruction on the point under our consideration, and we 
make no apology for introducing it, if it can aid us in exhibiting the 
view of a twofold principle of the inner life in man, with an order 
of truths corresponding to each. 

The elevated teaching of Christ, combined with the miracles 
worked by Him, had attracted and perplexed a Jewish ruler. This 
was most natural. The singularity of the teaching has compelled 
the attention and admiration of less observant men, and could not 
fail to excite interest in a thoughtful mind like that of Nicodemus. 
He is eager to account for this new Teacher, that is, to explain, 
satisfactorily to himself, the appearance of a man apparently so 
different from ordinary men. He had possibly tried many solutions 
of this living enigma, just as we have seen many attempted solutions 
of the abiding record of the enigma. Have we not heard of many 
ways of accounting for, what some would call, this strange moral 
phenomenon P and it is not unlikely that Nicodemus hit upon some 
of our modern theories. Men's thoughts are, after all, not so 
diverse in different periods and in widely separated countries. The 
Jewish ruler in not quite a positive way as would seem, still, 
however, in the only way accordant with the tendency of his mind, 
answers the question that had been troubling him regarding the 
nature, mission, and teaching of this great man. He replies that 
He is sent from God, Divinely inspired, — a very common way of 
accounting for anything unusual, and giving evidence, not ne- 
cessarily of any real spiritual insight, but merely of a theological 
turn of mind. The great man to whom this explanation of Himself 
is given, being satisfied with the shallowness of such an answer, pro- 


claims a truth that staggers the master in Israel, and bewilders 
him more than the sublime teaching and miracle working had done. 
The order of spiritual truth is not nearly so perplexing a problem 
to the sensible consciousness as the discovery of the faculty for its 
perception. The truth is supposed to be capable of resolution into 
legend or myth, but the fact of a spiritual consciousness outs at 
the root of this very explanation. "You think," Christ says in 
effect to Nicodemus, " that you have put your finger on the secret 
of this new experience, that you have opened for yourself the door 
into My kingdom; you imagine that the bare recognition of the 
Teacher and worker of miracles as a noble, divine, inspired man is 
all that is necessary in order to gain an entrance into the spiritual 
kingdom ; you dream that carnal and sensible discernment, that in- 
tellectual perception and moral belief, can realise the spiritual and 
heavenly, but you have not solved this problem ; nor can you in 
this way ever see My kingdom or Me, and oertainly oot in this way 
can you enter My kingdom: 'you must be born again/" Like 
men in general, Nicodemus begins to dispute this position; he is 
in fact determined logically to settle the question, and he does so 
in a manner apparently highly scientific and strictly logical. He 
reduces the statement of Christ to an absurdity — from his standpoint 
a very simple matter indeed ; but the misfortune for Nicodemus is, 
that the truth is not subject to logical conditions, and is outside the 
sphere of the mere sensible understanding. His argument is, in 
the main, the argument we reviewed on the general question of 
miracles, and which has become associated with later philosophy. 
How can this be P How can a man be born when he is old P can he 
enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born P How 
can nature act thus, and reverse her operations P Must we not as- 
sume as the basis for all our actions and speculations that nature 
is uniform P * But this assertion regarding a new birth disturbs 
all our calculations, it is contrary to the first axiom of reason in 
the highest generalisation of experience; it is suicidal, as we 
moderns would say; it is absurd, Nicodemus says. "Ye must be 
born again"! Throw that into shape, and see the manifest contra- 
diction ! Man is born, at first, naturally, by a well-known mode of 
generation, and nature is uniform in her action ; therefore ' the 
second birth must take place in the same mode of generation as the 

* The statement of Nicodemus implies, although it does not exaotly formulate, 
this modern oonoeption. 


first, which we know is absurd. Some may think this exceedingly 
clever, and be inclined to cry ont, Well done, Nicodemns ! We do 
not think it so very clever. It looks a pretty piece of reasoning, 
like many other pieces of reasoning on similar subjects and from the 
same point of view, but it is logically even fallacious. It confounds 
the natural with the spiritual, and renders the cod elusion inconse- 
quent. Because natural laws and operations are so and so, it is 
concluded that spiritual laws and operations must be the same. 
Nicodemns, we see, is still moving among the carnal, the intel- 
ligible, the visible ; the sensible and natural are all in all to him. 
When first he is introduced to us, he is under the impression that 
he has discerned the spiritual in the teacher and miracle worker ; 
but it was a poor and feeble and outside discernment — a shadowy 
intellectual perception — a kind of shock to his general consciousness 
merely. It wanted vital power and genuine spiritual insight. He 
is ignorant of the very elements of this sphere of knowledge. The 
first stage in this new mode of perception is altogether a mystery to 
Nicodemns ; and, accordingly, when he is met by a new truth in 
this strange and, to him, inexplicable sphere of truth, he goes im- 
mediately to his native and sensible perceptions and from these con- 
cludes, as he no doubt thinks, wisely and intelligently, that this new 
sphere is altogether impossible. He cannot, by any means, bring 
its truthB within the compass of his understanding; they will 
not for a moment bear comparison with sensible facts and natural 
phenomena ; they are, in short, as men now keep repeating, far be- 
yond all experience and all known observations, and how can they 
be ? This great spiritual truth of the new birth, and it is only an 
example of the body of truths to which it belongs, is something that 
is not within the philosophical domain that Nicodemns has mapped 
out for himself — something therefore of which he is sceptical. But, 
we should very much like to ask any modern Nicodemns, for we 
have not a few in these later days, did it never strike you that there 
are many things beyond your philosophy besides this great spiritual 
truth of which we have been speaking — many things not only be- 
yond it, but many things of which it never dreamed P You go 
about with your measuring rod, your many means of observation, 
your scales of comparison ; and all surfaces you gauge, all visible 
objects you note, all ponderable things you weigh, and call this alone 
your philosophy. Have you ever dng a common weed and ques- 
tioned it P What is the thing that you call life in that vegetable 
product P You say it is a vortex in which molecules constantly 


enter and depart, and that while this movement exists, the body 
lives. Bnt is this not merely a way of darkening " counsel by 
words without knowledge " ? Is yonr explanation not very much a 
poetical fancy. And even poetically considered, does it include 
that feeling of quiet which comes to us from nature ? The peace 
of the still pastures in the lonely vales ; the solemn trees in far- 
away primeval forests ; the hushed and serrated array of bearded 
corn upon our harvest fields ; the imaged death of man and beast 
in the depth of midnight : are these and countless other modes of 

" The hush among the shining stars, 
The calm upon the moonlight sea/' 

well represented by vortices attracting and repelling ? You have 
analysed your mental acts doubtless, as men like Nicodemus generally 
do, and have, I feel persuaded, observed much for your philosophy ; 
but what is the mental power or whatever else you may call it, from 
which these acts proceed ? What is the last element in thought ? 
What is its life, its vital energy ? Vortices again, playing through 
nervous channels ? You have heard the summer wind (Christ's own 
illustration) breathe, as it swept along ; you have seen the trees 
and shrubs and lowly flowers bend down before an unseen power 
which their quicker sympathy seemed alone to feel — a presence every- 
where that played about in the warm air in sportive waves, and 
now, as I write, you may hear it gently murmuring in its ceaseless 
motion, scarcely "louder than an insect's hum;" and you have 
noted some of its manifestations for your philosophy : but whence 
does it come, and whither does it go P It would seem that your 
philosophy is, in the main, an inarticulate utterance only of what 
you but faintly and partially comprehend — that by far the deepest 
and most fundamental things are still unobserved or unobservable 
by it — that there is much more in the world than philosophy contains 
that, very probably, there is that more, which, if known, would 
banish a great deal of existing philosophy from men's minds. We 
come, with the mere intellect and senses, to see a spiritual kingdom, 
and question the very first condition for beholding it. We doubt 
its testimony as Nicodemus doubted Christ's testimony, because our 
limited sense experience and feeble powers of observation do not 
confirm it, as if its testimony needed any confirmation but the re- 
sponse of the adapted faculty to the spiritual that is within us. 
Whoever asked confirmation of the testimony to the existence of the 
light of common day beyond its own clear action on the senses 


which it affects P Philosophical investigation of external existence 
is not a questioning of light and other outer facts ; it is only an 
attempt to formulate, or construe them to the intelligence. But 
spiritual facts are supposed to require something more than their 
existence and action to recommend themselves ; as if anything conld 
be half so convincing as the fact itself. There is, at the bottom of 
such a spirit, a lack of simplicity, a want of child-like humility, 
which is needed in dealing with spiritual phenomena, as well as in 
dealing with scientific, as both Christ and Bacon knew from their 
own profound experience. Over the portals of the kingdom of 
spirit and the kingdom of nature alike is written, "Whosoever 
shall not receive " them "as a little child shall in no wise enter 
therein." The treatment of Nicodemus by Christ is an illustration 
of this. Nicodemus came puffed up with the idea that all know- 
ledge, even that of this new kingdom, was open to his gaze, and he 
was shown that earthly things were far enough away from his per- 
ception. How then, Christ says, can yon flatter yourself that 
heavenly things are within your ken? "If I have told you earthly 
things, and ye believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of 
heavenly things P " 

The attempt to enter the spiritual sphere by intellectual force, 
and to compel others to enter by the same agency, is not confined 
to seekers after the spiritual, but has been too much distinctive of 
the professed followers of Christ. They have relied, almost whoDy, 
on arguments and appeals to the reason of man, and have failed to 
excite the spiritual instincts. They have been wasting their strength 
in an attempt as vain as that of trying to convince by demonstration, 
a man with a sense of hearing, but no sense of sight, that there is 
such a thing as colour. They seem only to care to bring men to 
Christ, spiritually speaking, in a midnight darkness, with the ac- 
knowledgment that he is a God-sent teacher and Divine miracle 
worker. But Christ's answer to all such is, You mistake Me, and My 
kingdom. My kingdom is purely spiritual, and can only, therefore, 
be spiritually discerned. It is not, in the common usage of the 
term, demonstrable. The only form of life that can find direct sus- 
tenance and its proper sphere there, is a life in God's Spirit. The 
Spirit that informed the deep of the external world, and made it in- 
stinct with life, must inform our dark and confused spiritual con- 
sciousness, and bring light and order into it by stirring the faint 
pulsations of its life. The religious conception of the action of the 
Spirit does not confine it to what is distinctively known as the 


spiritual life in man ; it perceives it to be extended to every realm 
of life; its conception of it is that of one Spirit with many modes, — 

" An active Principle : — howe'er removed 
From sense and observation, which subsists 
In all things, in all natures ; 
... the Soul of all the worlds." 

This perception of the spiritual everywhere is the Divine in man 
perceiving the Divine without him, and is subsequent to the dawn- 
ing of the new birth, as we shall see more in detail afterwards. 
Although hidden, the action of the Spirit is everywhere ; but it is 
a mistake to conceive it as everywhere alike, as Nicodemus, and 
many others since, have done. The Spirit of the universe, of which 
the poet speaks, has, if not its more intimate home in the breast 
of man, at least a different unfolding there than elsewhere. And 
so this new birth is not after the carnal creation that Nicodemus 
supposed, although perhaps resembling it in many ways. This mere 
sensible idea of it, however, if it could be realised, would be a boon 
to many a heart. For what man or woman is there who does not 
in the best moods of his or her existence long for this return to 
other and earlier and fresher days P Who is there, for example, 
who would not occasionally be glad to exchange the experience of 
age for the simplicity of childhood ; to forego the knowledge of good 
and evil for the quiet innocence that accompanies tender years; to 
barter the hard independence of manhood for the trusting, unsus- 
pecting confidence of childhood P Who would not get back if they 
could sometimes that sunny season of gladsome days, the time 

. . . " when meadow, grove, and stream, 
The earth, and every common sight, 
. . . did seem 

Apparelled in celestial light, 
The glory and the freshness of a dream " T 

Who would not shut their eyes to this "light of common day," 
in which all men and women live, and open them on the " heaven 
that lies about us in our infancy." Not exactly thus, however, 
as we said, is the Spirit birth or the strengthening of the Divine 
consciousness in man, yet not entirely withont its resemblance. It 
means certainly an awakening of spiritual faculties, in order that all 
the influences of the world for which they are adapted may flow in 
upon them. Born of God in the Spirit, those who are the subjects of 
this birth have the image of their Father on their souls, and lie, as 
children should, in unquestioning confidence in His arms. With this 



awakened perception we have heaven about us, and the Divine near 
us, in a truer sense than the childhood of the world ever had. By 
it we are enabled to see the spiritual world as really and truly as we 
now see the earthly. Our spirits are open to higher strains and 
finer harmonies. Through this life, as it grows and strengthens, we 
shall receive spiritual impressions, enlarging our faculties, and there- 
with expanding our knowledge of the spiritual sphere, of God, of 
heaven, of eternity. How this new birth or Divine consciousness 
is produced, and when it was first manifested, we do not profess to 
know, any more than we pretend philosophically to understand how 
vital influence is given to our own and other bodies. But we know 
the facts concerning both ; we are certain, that as there is in what 
we call nature an unseen but felt power which spreads life and 
beauty around us and manifests itself through the lives which it has 
formed, even so in the spiritual kingdom there is this higher in* 
fluence moving among the spirits of men, and here and there bending 
before its invisible presence the souls which it has born anew. We 
do not pretend to describe its action, or trace its movements, but 
we with others are conscious of these " quickening, animating in- 
fluences on all sides as of a holy world throughout governed by 
supernatural powers." These influences are, as might be expected, 
most abiding, and direct, and impressive when we " cross the thresh- 
old " of the Book that records the unfolding, in one nation, of this 
sphere to man. It is here naturally that we feel brought into the 
more immediate presence of the Divine, although the influence is by 
no means limited to it, and may even in other manifestations some- 
times surpass what we find there. We know also from the Bible, 
what we feel in experience, that the new life of holiness by faith in 
our spirits is capable of rising to heights of spiritual perfection 
hitherto unattained by ourselves or those before us in the same 
order of experiences. With unknown ages before us, of which the 
geological past may help us to form some dim and approximate 
idea — with unknown higher spiritual influences in that measureless 
expanse in our religious life, which developing life everywhere now 
faintly discloses, — I am persuaded that it is no dream to cherish the 
hope of the fullest development of this Divine consciousness, that 
it is no vain desire to long for the great ideal of all life, to be perfect 
as our Father in heaven is perfect. As this is the hope of the 
living, so is it the grandest " doom we can imagine for the mighty 
dead." We are quite aware that this consciousness of the spiritual, 
or, as we have termed it, the new birth, which lies at the very basis 


• * 



of spiritual truth (whether in Scripture or elsewhere), even as the 
Being towards whom we aspire forms its apex, is questioned by 
many, and proof demanded of the certainty of these things. To 
him who has not this certainty in himself, I confess I can find no 
fitter words, in addition to what has already been said, in which to 
state this certainty, than the following : — " Soil denn der geistig 
Geheilte oder wenigstens in die Heilung Eingetretene nicht eben 
so unmittelbar, ohne irgend welche Beweisfuhrung, zwischen Krank- 
heit und Gesundheit unterscheiden und seine Gesundheit fuhlen, 
wie der korperlich Geheilte oder doch in der entschiodenen Becon- 
valescenz Begriffene es thut ? Welche Vorstellung von der Prom- 
migkeit liegt doch iiberhaupt dem gegnerischen Baisonnement zu 
Grande ! 1st sie denn nicht ihrem Wesen nach unmittelbare Selbst- 
gewissheit? Bezeugt sich denn nicht das Gottliche selbst dem 
Empfanglichen unmittelbar als solches, und ist nicht eben nur die 
auf solchem Selbstzeugniss desselben beruhende Gewissheit die 
voile religiose Gewissheit ? Das wirklich gottliche Leben ist als 
das schlechthin wahre und reelle Leben auch seiner Beahtat sich 

In treating of spiritual truth, under whatever form, we cannot 
advance one step unless we are agreed upon the conditions of dis- 
cussion, viz., the nature of the truth, and the mode of its perception. 
To those who really feel no consciousness, or only the vaguest percep- 
tion, of the Divine, and to those who may have it faintly but have not 
sought to quicken it by contact with the sphere of its action, this 
chapter may seem the expression of emotion, rather than of experi- 
ence. To those who feel a capacity for perceiving the truth we call 
spiritual, the emotion, if it please any one to call it so, will be felt 
to mirror the nature of the experience, and to be repressed rather 
than exaggerated. In eesthetics Schiller says, we need " a heart 
which feels, and puts in force, the whole power of the beautiful ; " 
and in spiritual truths also we must have a capacity — a Divine con- 
sciousness or spiritual susceptibility, since it is so necessary at every 
step to appeal to experience and feeling, rather than to general 
principles. The task may be simple and effective, or severe and 
useless, as we have, or have not such internal faculty to respond to 
this appeal. This has ever been the supreme difficulty in all re- 
ligious questions which were deeper than bare dogma, and touched 
vital spiritual existences. We may get a response when the life is 

Bothe. »° ~ ~*9 

e tt r« 

* J 

h 2 


there, but we cannot inspire the life if it is so feeble, and inoperative, 
as to be practically unconscious. And this spiritual unconsciousness 
arises mainly from the fact that we will not come to Him that we 
might have life, or having it, have it more abundantly. 

We do not seek by these remarks to judge others and their 
spiritual and intellectual position ; we state merely the general 
condition of internal spiritual development. The causes why these 
conditions are inoperative, we dare not seek to determine. The 
known complexities of physical and mental life within the domain 
of observed phenomena, would hinder any one from rudely and 
ignorantly dogmatising upon mental and moral conditions; but 
when we add to these the action of the spiritual life with which 
the moral and intellectual states are closely allied, he would be a 
rash man, not to say uncharitable, who would trespass the bounds 
of general observation and enter the domain of personal experience. 
Harsh judgments are much easier, less true, and when true, if they 
ever chance to be so, less edifying, than dispassionate and affec- 
tionate statements of truth. Truth, whether in spiritual matters 
or physical, is never personal ; when pure and purely held it has 
ever the note of universality. It is the admixture of error that 
makes it limiting, and particular, and personal ; and this is the 
manner in which we are all too apt to hold our grain of truth, and 
the reason why our statement of it is so exceedingly individual 
and bitter. The more nearly we approach Him who was "the 
truth," the more will we be filled with that charity which is 
the bond of perfectness, and which beareth all things, believeth 
all things, hopeth all things. I scarcely expect that we shall then 
have a division in our science of theology, or knowledge of the 
spiritual, assigned to polemics. 

• •• • • 

• • ••• „-. • . 

- : * . . • • 

* to • to • 



" One principal feature in the characteristic religious activity of the Holy Scrip- 
tures is, that it transports us in a distinot manner into the historic facts of the 
Divine revelation itself." 

The general idea of a revelation being, as we have seen in a pre- 
vious chapter, the unveiling of the Divine through spiritual facts 
made luminous in the ordinary coarse of events, whether in nature 
or in history, and these requiring in man for their apprehension a 
receptivity which I have called for the sake of distinction a spiritual 
consciousness, we are led, so far as analogy can lead us, to antici- 
pate a gradual devolopment, both in the external revelation and in 
the internal capacity. Revelations could only be given as men were 
fitted to receive them. This statement must not be stretched too 
far. It is not meant to convey an opinion, for instance, that the 
earlier revelations were known absolutely in their entire compass at 
the very first. They could, in fact, only be known by degrees, as the 
awakening spiritual consciousness attained vigour and insight. As 
we know from experience in other forms of truth, spiritual truths 
already known in consciousness would be dependent on truths not 
yet presented, and in this way the comprehension of a truth already 
in presentation would be postponed. Later revelations were not 
always grasped in an adequate manner when uttered, nor are they 
even now clearly realised by the enlightened spiritual consciousness. 
On the contrary it is not difficult to see that many of them are ab- 
solutely misapprehended. In the Bible record a process, which we 
found to be at the basis of our conception of spiritual life and a 
spiritual sphere, is plainly seen to be begun and carried on, viz., 
that of exciting activity in the spirit of man, — of unfolding and 
purifying his consciousness for the perception of the Divine mani- 
festation. The method of God with man was essentially that 
enunciated by Leasing. The primitive revelation stood to man in 
the same relation that education stands to the individual. It was an 
education in the spiritual. But, while Lessing conceived truly the 
method and nature of the earlier revelation, the conclusions drawn 
by him from this fundamental conception were erroneous. He 


failed, we think, to realise the double element in man's constitution, 
corresponding to the twofold sphere outside of him, and the dis- 
tinctive, and in some respects independent, character of these 
elements. The relation of sensible life to sensible phenomena is not 
the same as the relation of the spiritual life to what is Divine. It is 
true that we speak of consciousness in connection with both, but 
this is merely the most general expression for the primordial 
internal state produced in each case : we do not pretend by it to 
describe in detail the mode in which we stand related to that which 
produces this state. Through sensible consciousness, when developed 
as we now see it, we gain a knowledge of the relations of one thing 
to another in the world of sensible phenomena ; in spiritual con- 
sciousness, as addressed through revelation, we are lifted out of the 
sphere of generalised relations into personal contact with One who 
transcends these relations, but whom their most comprehensive 
expression cannot touch. Personal union with the Divine is widely 
apart in many ways from phenomenal experience ; just as, in a less 
complete manner, personal union with humanity, in emotion, and 
intellect, and moral sensibility, would be different from experience 
of these, if we could have such experience, existing in some ex- 
ternal material manifestation, and severed from all personality. 
The fact that an education was needed by man through revelation, 
as Leasing himself seems in one way to allow, might have led him, 
one would think, to consider that there was something special 
requiring this special means. Instead of this, however, he concludes 
that revelation being an education, and education giving nothing 
which might not be educed by man, the truths of revelation might 
be attained by reason, independent of all special manifestation, but 
that revelation enabled man to reach them much earlier. The 
mistake in the conclusion is rendered all the more patent from the 
fact that it is drawn, not from the primary conception of revelation, 
but from the bare etymological meaning of education. In using 
such a comparison, it is necessary to distinguish ^between God edu- 
cating and man educating ; the one not only presiding over the 
process, but supplying the material ; the other directing the process 
merely. Paul expresses the idea better, perhaps, than Lessing, and 
without carrying the comparison to an extreme, as there is always a 
danger of doing in any analogy, when he calls the law, the school- 
master to bring us unto Christ. It was the purpose of this school- 
master to awaken in the spirits of his pupils the consciousness of 
the Divine, and to do this synchronously with the development of 


the capacity to receive it. This primitive schoolmaster would have 
failed entirely of his purpose, had he, as Leasing puts it, hurried his 
pupil beyond the stage he had reached at any given time. From 
the constitution of man, and from the nature of the revelation, as 
well as from analogous processes in other modes of life, we can regard 
revelation in the light of an evolution of the Divine. And this is, 
perhaps, even better than to regard it as an education. The only 
platform on which, of course, this was possible to man was on the 
platform of the natural ; the mode in which it was practicable was 
by the weaving of the supernatural through the natural. Revelation 
is, therefore, a supernatural history with a natural basis. The dis- 
tinction between Biblical history and other history, and between the 
Jewish people and other peoples, is that their history and nationality 
are not to be wholly explained by the sequence of natural events, 
but by natural sequence together with the supernatural or the Divine 
in these events, and perceived to be in them. History by itself, 
as I shall have occasion more fully to notice, cannot give us the 
Divine any more than nature or conscience can do so. For this 
there was needed something more than the course of social and 
moral phenomena. There was needed that which is really the essence 
of Jewish history — the Divine manifested in social and moral events, 
and the cultivation of a faculty to recognise this manifestation. 

We cannot, at the present day, get at the first movement of 
spiritual life among this people. The first stage in any form of life 
is imperceptible to us. In life generally we see results not pro- 
cesses. There is an embryonic stage in social as well as in indi- 
vidual life. When social life emerges from this, it is hardly 
possible to trace it back to its original state. Tradition has made 
this original state its own, and the interpretation of tradition is the 
hardest problem for the investigator in religious, social, or moral 

Our first introduction to the Jewish people through their litera- 
ture exhibits them as a people with the spiritual element of their 
nature considerably developed. They appear before us, at the very 
beginning of their history, with a vivid spiritual perception. That 
is the reason why their first word of explanation about the world 
and man is God. They looked into the sphere of nature, and the 
light " which lighteth every man," but which in them was unusually 
clear and bright, discerned the Divine there ; and, thus, at the very 
threshold we get the key which opens to us the many chambers 
that compose this beautiful structure of Divine truth, viz., God. 


This is the note that distinguishes Jewish life and character, and 
it stands most appropriately in the forefront of their religions litera- 
ture.* Other peoples had, perhaps, keener perceptive faculties for 
the experiences of ordinary life, much greater powers of observation 
and generalisation; but to the Jews belonged the marked feature of 
spiritual intuition. 

The attempted explanation of the vigour and purity of the 
spiritual life among the Jews by linguistic peculiarities has been 
already implicitly considered in the chapter on mythology and kos- 
mical revelation. If the account there given be correct, language 
must have been itself determined primarily by mental and spiritual 
forces. It is an expression of internal experience in the first place, 
and is modified by the nature of that experience before it can in turn 
modify the mental or spiritual life. The singularity in the features 
of the language of the Jews was fixed by the character of their 
minds. Its concreteness tells us principally of their ordinary bent 
of intellect, and only in quite a secondary sense can it be said to 
have confirmed this mental attitude. We mould our words by our 
modes of thought before our thoughts are despotically controlled 
by our words. In fact, language must be in a considerable state of 
development before it can attain this supposed informing influence 
upon our conceptions. The reason why the structure of the Jewish 
language is so simple is, because the ideas of the people were likewise 
simple. That the root meanings of words have not the tendency, 
seen in some other languages, to disappear in derivative significations 
is owing to the comparative absence of generalisation on the experi- 
ences of sense among those who used the language. They were ever 
concrete in thought, and the language of their religious literature 
corresponds to this, and is the outcome of a similar characteristic in 
their spiritual experiences. Their realisation of the Divine, whether 
in nature or in history, was the realisation of something personal in 
both. There is little that is abstract or metaphysical in it It had 
from the first a strength and distinctness that has never been seen 
in any Aryan nation. The conception of the Divine by Aryan peo- 
ples soon became vague, indefinite, and undistinguished — if ever 
it was very clearly distinguished — from the experiences of sensible 
life, and so it readily clothed itself in the forms of language which 
this life supplied, and thus became more and more confused and 
mingled with these perceptions. Language contributed to this re- 


In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," etc. 


suit, but only so far as the conceptions which the language embodied 
were radically distinct. The language did not hinder some branches 
of the Semitic people from following the same course in spiritual 
life that was followed by the Aryan peoples. It did not prevent 
large sections of the Jews themselves from lapsing frequently into 
a haziness of spiritual perception. It is only in their representative 
men that we see the ideal of the spiritual life which the nation 
typified, as it was by these men that the nation was again and again 
recalled to the consciousness of the Divine hand in all things — to 
the fact that this and this was the Lord's doing, — a testimony and a 
point of vision which constituted for them and us what we know by 
the name of revelation. They were a people whose crowning glory, 
we can well see, was the fact that God was in all their thoughts. 
Everything spoke to them of Him. He was the first and only ex- 
planation to their spiritual being of all that they beheld, and not, as 
theism teaches, the last generalisation of sense-given experience. The 
name by which they knew Him shows this. Jahve, the I am, was 
sufficient for them in His personality and the fact of His existence. 
This was something very much different from Dyaus-Vulcanus, 
or any other phenomenal expression ; it was really, what we call in 
our more general language, an intuition of the Divine by the spirit- 
ual faculty. He had other names, it is true, partly borrowed from 
neighbouring nations, and partly expressive of the attributes of His 
Being. He never was mere existence, but stood related to them and 
all things in a living way, and from these relations they faintly tried 
in speech to express the manifestations of His Being, but at the 
same time always distinguishing Him from His appellations. 

It is difficult to formulate any statement sufficiently embracing to 
express the position of the Jewish people and their work in this 
spiritual manifestation ; but as other nations are considered to have 
laid for us the foundation of science, art, and polity, we may surely 
conceive this nation as having laid the foundation of all true spirit- 
ual insight, and begun a course of religious development of thought, 
and life, which is of not inferior interest to the parallel development 
of science. But, while we say that the Jews laid the foundation, we 
are not to be held as saying that religious life had elsewhere, or 
would now with us have had, no existence but for them, any more than 
by the common remark that the Greeks taught us science are we 
considered as holding that knowledge had, or would have had, no 
existence but for its cultivation in Greece. The position we claim 
for the Jews has, we shall see, nothing in it contradictory to the 


statement of the apostle, that God " hath made of one blood all 
nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath deter- 
mined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation ; 
that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, 
and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us." Any 
reading of revelation that contradicts this, which is the very heart 
of what Christ came to teach, must be erroneous. But we may be 
far enough away from God, although He is ever near us ; and seek- 
ing and feeling after are conditions of a spiritual life and a spiritual 
consciousness that have not risen above a mere primitive and in- 
definite state. As in the natural world, however, we do not seek to 
pass moral judgment upon the undeveloped germ, but, on the con- 
trary, admire the marvellous process by which it may yet unfold 
its hidden powero, so in the spiritual sphere we may recognise a 
more or less matured and f ally formed, as well as an immature and 
almost indistinguishable stage of existence, without implying either 
praise or blame. That belongs not to the investigator of truth, 
but to the moral censor, offices which are very widely apart. 

In the Jewish history we see, — to use old, and I hope not quite 
extinct phraseology, — a separation and a call of individuals, consum- 
mated in a separation and a call of a nation, through which the 
Divine is brought near to man as man. It began in seeming ex- 
clusiveness and with apparent arbitrariness ; but what is there that 
does not to all mere outward observation begin in the same way P 
Its real destination was not local but universal ; all nations were to 
be blessed in Abraham. Abraham's history, like that of Enoch 
and Noah before him, and of Isaac, Jacob, Moses and others after 
him, although revealed to him in its distinctiveness as a natural 
history with the Divine running through it, was really the same as 
other men's histories where the Divine was not recognised.* The 
difference between the two classes of histories lies in the spiritual 
perception of this revelation, not in the fact of the Divine in the 
human, as we shall see immediately. The mass of the Jewish, 
people, although a holy priesthood as they are called, were often 
grossly blinded to the higher life ; but, as within the larger circle 
among the nations of the earth there was this smaller circle of a 
particular nation, so within this latter there was a still smaller circle 

* The remarks about these early personages in the Jewish narrative are per- 
tinent, whether we regard them as historical personages or merely, as some 
think, traditional. There can be no question that tradition has a veritable his- 
torical background. 


of priests, who represented the higher consciousness and the life of 
nearer communion with God ; and within this again another circle 
with a yet higher development, — the prophets, to whom were re- 
vealed the spiritual manifestations which the others, through weak- 
ness of their spiritual nature, could often not receive ; and of these 
last the perfect one was reached in Him whom the Lord their God 
was to raise up, and in whom was realised the highest and fullest 
development of that Divine consciousness, which was symbolised 
and imperfectly shadowed forth in the whole Jewish life and 
history, and particularly in the prophets. The educational process 
through which the Jewish people passed is no magical thing, 
although it must ever remain for us a spiritual phenomenon, and as 
such, cannot be considered in the light of a mere national develop- 
ment (in the usual sense of that term), traceable by the ordinary laws 
of national evolution. It is separated from a kind of magical revela- 
tion, current in many other countries, by the clear unfolding of a 
germ of the Divine through spiritually perceptible forms, until the 
perfect unfolding came in the person of Christ, whose ideal the 
national Jewish life, in its representative men, had ever been striv- 
ing to reach, and which was ultimately bodied forth to humanity. 
In Christ, therefore, we can recognise the perfect form of revelation 
as essentially the union of the Divine with the human, in other words, 
of the supernatural or spiritual with the natural. The spiritual 
had to blend with the natural. With more or less imperfection 
the union had been taking place ; partial or " germinating " ful- 
filments of this Divine idea had been witnessed in Jewish men 
and institutions, but none except Christ, who is in the very bosom 
of the Father, could be in the best sense the way, the truth, and 
the light. He only could perfectly manifest God's name to men, 
and unite them to their heavenly Father : " I in them, and Thou 
in Me, that they may be made perfect in one." 

We have, of course, in the account of Jewish life, as well as later 
on in the -memoirs of the life of Christ, records of undoubted his- 
tory, with elements susceptible of reduction to historical and social- 
istic laws. That is to be expected; but we have also, what we 
formerly noticed in our remarks on the question of miracles, ele- 
ments, which, while not antagonistic to scientific and natural facts, 
constitute a revelation of facts that could not otherwise have been 
made known. For what is really the main purport of Jewish 
history ? Is its chief lesson not just this, that sequence and sen- 
sible relations are not the only things in the affairs of men and in 


the changes of nature, but that the Divine is behind all sequences 
and mere sensible relations P It supplies that which ordinary ex- 
perience omits. Men of science are apt to be misled by the idoj 
of hasty generalisation, and to think everything explained when 
the cause in a series of phenomena is found out — when, by a given 
number of observations and a few eliminations and variations, an- 
tecedent and consequent are invariably found to recur. But they 
forget, what our great ignorance should prevent us all from over- 
looking, that there may be an element or elements not subject 
to their test of variations, which sensible observation is not at 
liberty to eliminate, for the very simple reason that it cannot deal 
with them. In every sequence, however regular, and indeed in 
many cases because of the regularity, a Divine consciousness sees an 
element which the sensible perception cannot see. To one who 
does not recognise this faculty in man, what antecedent to any con- 
sequent can explain order in nature, for instance, progress in 
history, and development everywhere ? None that pure science 
recognises. It recognises the consequent, and, has indeed, brought 
these truths under our notice, but it cannot explain them ; they are 
ultimate principles, and very much without meaning to it. But to 
him who knows from spiritual culture that the Divine is every- 
where, the meaning of these terms is clear, and their relations 

The two orders of truth, the one given in spiritual consciousness, 
and the other in sensible perception, must be taken together. The one 
without the other is imperfect, and can never give us a comprehensive 
view of the system of things. For this reason the Christian percep- 
tion of the Divine, although not originally dependent on natural 
knowledge, is much fuller than the Jewish ; not merely through in- 
creased revelation of the spiritual in Christ, but by all the increase 
of our knowledge of natural phenomena. The idea of general laws 
and orderly occurrences in events, with which we are now familiar, is 
well fitted to inspire the Christian mind with the notion of God as no 
arbitrary being. The Jewish conceptions help to direct us to spirit and 
personality, which are rendered obscure through the observation of 
law in the sequences of phenomena. The revelation of the Divine 
may thus be regarded, on one side at least, as corrective of the in- 
fluence of scientific observation pure and simple, and the latter may 
bo looked at in the light of a needful balance to the idea of an 
irregular and arbitrary interference. It is the tendency of the 
scientific idea to encourage individual and social exertion, and of 


the spiritual to give man confidence in the results of his labour as 
-well as support in its prosecution — a view which Paul expresses in 
the spiritual sphere, when he says, " Work out your own salvation 
with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to 
will and to do of His good pleasure." In the life of the Jews we are 
not only told of this working of God everywhere, but it is displayed 
before our eyes ; it is evident in their narratives and poetical 
writings, but most of all in the prophecies. The prophecies are, in 
fact, " illuminations of God's Spirit upon the events of history " in 
the Jewish nation in particular, and, by extension, in the history of 
every other nation. A principle of any kind once made known can 
be easily applied in similar cases. The perception of the principle 
is the main thing, the .place and time where it is perceived is 
immaterial. The principle of geological action discovered in this 
country at any given time may be extended in like circumstances 
to another country and another time. 

The Old Testament Scriptures are certainly in many ways a unique 
chapter in the history of the world ; but we are apt to exaggerate 
this singularity, and to rise from their perusal with the conviction, 
that, however God might interfere in guiding the counsels of this 
nation — now chastising it and anon pardoning it, now sending it 
intimations of His will and again punishing it for neglect of this 
revelation, He dealt not so with any other people ; meaning by this 
that others were utterly ignored by God. But this is entirely to 
misconstrue the purpose of the Old Testament revelations. They 
are not merely a record of the great things God did for the people 
of Israel, but they lay — and this is their chief use to use— before the 
universal spiritual vision the great principles of His action with all 
people on the face of the earth, viz., that He has not cut off any of them 
from His supreme control, that He giveth to all life, and breath, 
and all things, that His kingdom ruleth over all. If the Jews alone 
can be truly said to have discovered the idea of a spiritual Being 
ruling in the earth, and especially among themselves, this rule was 
no less in exercise among those whom we call heathen, although they 
might not discern it. 

The manifestation in Hebrew Scripture purports to be a manifes- 
tation of the spiritual. This is its starting point, and through 
individual life and national history and ethnological survey it keeps 
this course. What we express by prophecy as well as by miracle is 
that the spiritual has come home to man. Nothing shows this so well 
as the very noticeable fact, that revelation begins and ends in pro- 


phecy, simply because any spiritual manifestation, at all events the 
earlier stages of it, will partake of the prophetic while moving in the 
natural and current history of the particular time. Though coloured 
by passing events, it will stretch out into the illimitable ; although 
appearing in time, it will have about it an element of timelessness ; 
although in the world, it will possess that which characterised the 
great Bevealer and perfect prophet : it will not be of the world. The 
spiritual in man only faintly and indistinctly descries this new 
sphere at the first. His spiritual faculties are excited by the con- 
sciousness of somewhat outside of him corresponding to these powers. 
For it is true of the spiritual in man as well as of the natural, that 
"he cannot live without a world." "His faculties," as has been 
well said, "refer to natures out of him, and predict the world he is 
to inhabit, as the fins of the fish foreshadow that water exists." The 
strange phenomena which we rank under the external appearances 
of prophecy are the first stragglings of this inner spiritual power. 
The prophet or spiritual speaker shows in this world what Talbot 
would have shown, had he been "here," — 

" His substance is not here, 
For what yon see is but the smallest part, 
And least proportion of humanity ; 
Bnt were the whole frame here, 
It is of such a spacious, lofty pitch, 
Your roof were not sufficient to contain it" 

It is because this " roof " cannot contain the spirit, that it struggles 
to be free of its confinement. Like an imprisoned thing, and dimly 
alive to freedom, it beats the bars that hold it down. Thus, pertur- 
bation and convulsions are not unfrequent accompaniments of early 
spiritual manifestation among the Jews, a fact which has been again 
and again noticed in regard to pagan prophets. Indeed the simi- 
larity is too striking to be altogether overlooked. Indian tribes as 
well as some Jewish prophets knew how to produce the prophetic 
state by fasting and meditation. Schoolcraft in his account of Indian 
tribes, relates of a North American prophetess who fell into an ec- 
stasy at her solitary fast at womanhood, and at the call of the spirit 
went up into heaven by the path that leads to the opening of the sky. 
There she heard a voice, and pausing saw the figure of a man stand- 
ing near the path whose head was covered by a brilliant halo, and 
his breast with squares, and he said, " Look at me ; my name is the 
bright blue sky." The Jews, in like manner, had some belief that 
they could prepare their minds for the reception of a higher illumi- 


nation by a bodily training. The inner conditions being presupposed, 
the external bodily conditions appeared to some to have great in- 
fluence npon the reception of a vision. In the book of Daniel it is 
recorded that he mourned for three weeks and ate no pleasant bread, 
neither came flesh nor wine in his month. 

Another means common to Jew and pagan for inducing the pro- 
phetic state was music. The Patagonian wizard begins his perform- 
ance with drumming and rattling until the epileptic fit comes on 
by the demon entering him, who then answers questions from within 
him with a faint and mournful voice. The devil-dancers among the 
wild Veddas of Ceylon have to work themselves into a paroxysm 
in order to gain the inspiration whereby they profess to cure their 
patients. With furious dancing to the music and chanting of the at- 
tendants the Bodo priest brings on the fit of maniacal inspiration, 
in which the deity fills him and gives oracles through him. In 
2 Kings iii. 15, we read that Elisha before prophesying, asked a 
minstrel to be brought to him to play, and immediately the hand of 
the Lord came upon him. In 1 Samuel x. 5 Samuel tells- Saul, 
" Thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the 
high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp be- 
fore them ; and they shall prophesy." Natural sounds seemed to 
have the same effect as artificial. As certain pagan oracles had their 
seat in a wood where pleasing sounds might fill the ear, so we find 
that some of the visions, of which we read in the Old Testament, 
were seen as the prophets lay by the bank of some murmuring 
stream, as Daniel, e.g., at the river Hiddekel. If we look at the 
bodily condition produced in the prophets among low forms of civili- 
sation, we shall see how much it resembles some of those physical 
states recorded in the Old Testament prophecies as occasioned by a 
vision. In Kamtchatka the female shamans, when Bellukai came 
down into them in a thunderstorm, would prophesy, or receiving 
spirits with a cry of hush, with chattering teeth as in a fever, they 
said they were ready to divine. Daniel says : " When I heard the 
voice of His words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my 
face toward the ground. And, behold, a hand touched me, which 
set me upon my knees, and upon the palms of my hands." And 
again, " when he had spoken the word unto me, I stood trembling." 
It does not matter for our present purpose whether the book of 
Daniel is, as some think, the literary product of an artistic age or 
not, for even if it were, in order to be effective as a dramatic piece, 
it must be true to the conditions of prophetic life among the Jews. 


The appearance of madness, or what, to onlookers, seems like in- 
toxication, which was a feature in ruder forms than the Delphian 
oracle, was not unknown among the Hebrew prophets. Hosea (ix. 7) 
says, " The days of visitation are come, the days of recompenoe are 
come ; Israel shall know it : the prophet is a fool, the spiritual 
man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great 
hatred."* In the Fiji islands the priest, after remaining for some 
time m silence, begins to tremble, after which convulsions follow, 
accompanied by swelling of the veins. The god has entered him, 
and with livid lips, eyes rolling, and the aspect of a madman, he 
gives the divine answer. In Tahiti there are men so far like Jeremiah 
and Paul that, in their natural state they show little power of elo- 
quent utterance, but in convulsive delirium burst into earnest, lofty 
speech " declaring the will and answer of the gods, and prophesy 
in well knit harangues, full of the poetic figures and metaphors of 
the professional orator." The Zulu converts see dreadful sights 
in moments of religious excitement, such as snakes with great 
eyes, wild scenes of men and animals, which may remind some ' of 
Ezekiel's visions of the wheels with eyes, or John's vision of the 
creatures before the eternal throne. Perhaps every external form in 
which prophecy is spoken of in the Old Testament may be matched 
by a corresponding form in the religious experience of other nations. 
We should expect this. The difference between the manifestations 
is not likely to lie there, but rather in the manifestation itself, of 
which these things were but the accessories, and accessories which 
the whole history of the Jews (and their prophetical history most of 
all) shows to have been constantly subject to abuse. It is not the 
mere ecstatic state that can guide us to the truth or error of the 
spiritual manifestation, but that manifestation itself. Judging from 
the development of revealed truth in the Bible, and the principles 
stated throughout that book, it may be fairly inferred that these 
physical accompaniments were mainly owing to the want of prepara- 
tion in the human spirit for the reception of Divine thoughts. The 
fundamental condition of this reception is really that the recipient 
should be in deep internal spiritual accord with the Divine mind. 
From the special truths which particular men perceived, and from the 
general temperament of the men, the period of history and of spirit- 
ual development in which they lived, bodily perturbation more or 

* See also Jer. xxix. 26 ; Isa. xxiz. 9 ; 2 Kings ix. 11, and at the transition 
period of religious life among the Jews, Acts ii. 13. 


lees varied arose, and had to be allayed, in order that a fuller vision 
of the Divine might enter the prophetic mind, undisturbed by the 
violent action of the organs of sense. But the more we are convinced 
of the external similarity between Jewish prophecy, and ecstatic 
states elsewhere, the more necessity we feel to direct our attention to 
the decided contrast to be found in the deeper spiritual elements 
which formed the characteristic of both. The manifestation con- 
sidered as an unveiling of spiritual truth to an inquiring mind was 
not externa], or in any way physical. In the case of Paul, e.g., tho 
sensible phenomena were all apparent to the men who journeyed 
with him, but the spiritual revelation spoken to the Divine within 
Paul's soul was only perceived by himself ; and in the case of Daniel, 
those who were beside him at the river Hiddekel were afraid, but 
saw not the vision. In like manner, states of body or mind may be 
produced bearing the closest resemblance to prophetic accompani- 
ments ; but the heart of prophecy was the unfolding of a spiritual 
truth, in some form, to the spiritual perception of the prophet; 
whether this was in dream or in open vision, in suspension of the 
senses or in ecstatic elevation, was quite non-essential. The accom- 
paniments might be seen by any one, but the Divine that was in 
them could only be perceived by those to whom they were sent, 
that is, to those with the spiritual faculty trained for the reception 
of the order of truths addressed to it. Pharaoh, e.g., knew his 
dreams externally, and others are similarly represented to have 
known theirs ; but that which was really a spiritual manifestation in 
the dreams was veiled from them. This is where we see these Old 
Testament revelations contrast so strongly with Gentile oracles. The 
former mirror spiritual truths more exactly, the latter, as seen in the 
American prophetess of whom I spoke, seem more like pictures of 
what might dimly be spiritual, overshadowed by kosmical experience. 
The one was a beholding of actual spiritual fact, the other was a 
certain vividness of imagination excited, no doubt, by awakening 
spiritual impulses. The basis of the one was God, eternity, and 
spiritual facts; the world and time lay at the foundation of the 
other. As has been said, " it is want of originality that marks the 
visionaries of older and more modern times;" and this is precisely 
what the Old Testament seers and prophets possess. 

Although, therefore, the mere physical accompaniments are not 
revelations, it is impossible to overlook them entirely in a view of 
spiritual manifestation, giving, as they seem to do, indications of a 
spiritual faculty among all nations, but in very various degrees of 


perfection. It is much easier, however, to say what were the sensible 
elements, than it is to say what was the Divine element, in all these 
manifestations and acts of consciousness of the spiritual. The psy- 
chological and physiological symptoms of which we are informed do 
not supply us with mots sufficient to construct a definite theory. 
The written accounts of early communications between the Divine 
and the human spirit have received the stamp of a peculiar phrase- 
ology, which must be held, as in some respects, technically descrip- 
tive of the act of manifestation and spiritual condition of the man 
who was the subject of it. The general expression made use of in 
the history of the patriarchs, " the Lord said unto Noah," etc., as 
well as that employed by the later prophets, " the hand of the Lord 
was upon me," or intensely, " was strong upon me," are recognised 
formulsB introductory to spiritual announcements. The description 
of the mode of perception as visual carries with it a similar technical 
meaning. We have this in Balaam, Samuel, Isaiah, and down to 
the apocalyptic writer of the New Testament: "He hath said 
which saw the vision," " The word that Isaiah saw," " the vision 
which I saw," are the ordinary preludes to a Divine communication. 
The detailed accounts which the prophets themselves give of these 
visions confirm their description of them.* 

It is probable that what is known as the perspective of prophecy, 
which has sometimes proved so puzzling to interpreters, originates 
in " the vision." By the perspective in prophecy is generally under- 
stood that peculiar feature of it by which the near and remote seem 
strangely commingled in the prophet's mind. The events and 
thoughts stand out before the spiritual sight as yet only partially 
trained to such scenes and thoughts, but they appear to lie so close 
upon each other, that those far distant seem almost as prominent as 
those which, in point of time, are near at hand. Or for the nonce it 
would seem that events take the form which they have in the Divine 
Mind, with whom one day is as a thousand years; so that to the 
prophet's spiritual eye successive occurrences are represented as if 
they were synchronous. This is the timelessness of prophecy which, 
in one view of it, is just the expression of the fact that it had 
mainly to do with principles in which time is no necessary element, 
they being universally true. That it took a scenic form is mainly 
owing to the early stage of spiritual development. Thoughts, in 

* In the opinion of some these visions are reflected poetical extensions by the 
prophet, of his spiritual perceptions. 


every department of mental activity are more vivid and striking to 
the uncultured man than they are to the man in a more advanced 
state. In the seer or contemplator who beheld spiritual truths in 
dream or vision we may observe how the primitive spiritual con- 
sciousness was stirred and sometimes, as it were,' startled by the 
movements of the Divine Spirit. 

We can scarcely realise to ourselves the dawning of this new form 
of life and perception among men in whom God's Spirit was work- 
ing — the wrestlings, and alternate recognitions, and rebellions of the 
soul in its half conscious awakenings. Nor can we imagine the thrill 
and intoxicating delight with which a spiritual manifestation was re- 
ceived by a soul that had been patiently awaiting the Divine revela- 
tion. What words could adequately describe the delirium and sense 
of self-abandonment in the man who, through long listening to the 
Divine admonitions that spoke to him, perceived in faintest outline 
the sum of spiritual truth, and said "God" ? The perception must 
have been to him like a vision ; he must have felt as in a dream or 
trance, and as if God spoke to him within his own soul. It was a 
revelation of the unseen, an apocalypse of what was hidden behind 
the veil of sense, a veritable manifestation of the spiritual. And 
this, which was the essence of early revelation, is likewise that of 
later revelation. The distinctive character of the men to whom these 
spiritual manifestations came was that of men of faith. The root of 
their spiritual life was in the invisible, and they drew from it their 
highest inspiration and deepest insight. It has been said by Kant 
(in his "Religion within the Limits of Reason") in regard to various 
mysteries, that " God has revealed nothing, and cannot grant us 
such a revelation, for we could not understand it. It is not con- 
ceivable that God could convey to us a mysterious knowledge by 
inspiration, for our understanding is, by its nature, unfitted for such 
a deposit." We accept this position of Kant's in regard to those 
mysteries which the theological understanding, working on revealed 
truth, has contrived to deduce by a perversion both of its faculties 
and the truth on which they operated ; but we do not see how his 
remark applies to revelation as a spiritual manifestation. A mys- 
terious knowledge by inspiration is by no means a correct equivalent 
for spiritual manifestation. The external world is a manifestation, 
and to men with the profoundest acquaintance with its laws it is 
still at heart a mystery. Human life is a manifestation, but it is no 
less a puzzle to us. In like manner, it does not follow that a spiritual 
manifestation being given, it should forthwith be understood. We 

I 2 


are told that the minds of the prophets were led to search " what, 
or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did 
signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the 
glory that should follow." We do not think by any means that we 
are to conclude, that a particular prophecy was to the prophet him- 
self wholly unintelligible, or, as Kant expresses it, that his message 
was to him a mysterious knowledge conveyed by inspiration. The 
prophets invariably, as is evident, attached some meaning to the 
visions which they describe. The fact being that they must have 
attached some meaning to the form of words they used. Any doubt 
about the intelligibility of the thought, can only be with reference to 
the extent of their insight into the revelations. And here it is 
evident that the men were limited by the conceptions, as they were 
by the language, of their own time. Their revelations are, in fact, 
so modified, and their comprehension of them must have been 
similarly conditioned. 

These forms were the human and local moulds, into which the 
divine facts and principles given in the spiritual manifestation, and 
true for all time, although thus embodied, were cast. Revelation, 
while having its source in God's Spirit, must assume some definite 
shape in passing through the human spirit, which is a factor in all 
spiritual manifestation. There must necessarily be the historical 
element in all spiritual manifestation, — an element which has oc- 
casioned perhaps more blunders and led to more disputes than the 
revelation proper. The mould into which the Jewish spirit threw 
its revelation was naturally that of its own nationality. The higher 
spiritual intelligences of the nation might see more clearly than 
others into the spiritual manifestations, but they saw them through 
these national colourings. Nothing shows this so vividly as the 
mode in which they spoke of their great central revelation — the 
Messianic hope. The Person who was the object of all the prophets' 
visions, was represented as the head of the Jewish theocracy. 
There is no denying that the medium was imperfect. All our media 
are so ; but there is nevertheless a deep reality and no illusoriness 
in such a mode of perception. We cannot see how the prophets 
could have talked and thought intelligibly under another form ; it 
only becomes ridiculous, if not inane, when we in the present day 
affect the same form. A Greek speaks like a Greek, and a Roman 
like a Roman, and why not a Hebrew like a Hebrew ? It would 
have been no spiritual manifestation to the children of Israel had 
Abraham, Moses, Joel, Isaiah spoken (supposing such a thing pos- 


sible) in the language and mode of the 19th century. The form of 
a truth has only an extrinsic interest for those who have outlived the 
fashion of the time in which the two emerged together, but it is of 
vital consequence to those who are contemporary with their first ap- 
pearance. And if it is true that revelation presupposes a human 
modification, it is as true, that the man who received it, must con- 
ceive and express it in relation to his own age — that in images, as 
well as language, the eternal truth which he perceives will be un- 
avoidably historical. It is through failing to observe this that the 
controversy about the Messianic psalms, for example, continues; 
and it is neglect of the very same fact that has given occasion to 
another discussion quite as fertile in its general outcome, namely, 
that of the restoration of the Hebrew nation. The writers of the 
psalms and the speakers of visions contemplating the affairs of their 
nation, with spirits full of the perception of the Divine in their history, 
and with a firm reliance on a spiritual order, speak frequently of 
some perfect form of kinghood, or ideal ruler; but history might 
have to show what or who this actually was to be. It is most likely 
that these prophets and psalm writers looked for the realisation of 
this perfect King in some not very distant actual king of heightened 
spiritual culture, and hence these accessories in the picture, of his 
coming in material splendour, and even with the dread accompani- 
ments of war, belonging to the periods with which the utterances 
are connected. Many of these matters can, however, be only of 
secondary importance to us. They do not give us with equal clear- 
ness what was special in the spiritual manifestation of the Jews, 
but often what were the thoughts of the Jewish mind about this 
manifestation. This is a distinction that is of the last importance 
to us in seeking to gain an intelligent apprehension of early revela- 

As a fact, however, it ought to be noticed that partial fulfilments 
of these visions were pressing on the times in which the visions were 
made known. The visions themselves helped to sustain the hopes 
of the spiritually faint. Some successor to the seer finds that 
history declares the time unripe for its perfect realisation, and he 
takes up the strain and, stirred by new events in the national life, 
and inspired with a deep insight into the spiritual facts behind these 
events, clothes them in the same fundamental forms, but with wider 
reaches and more extended outlook. This recurrence of strains on 
the great thought of the Old Testament revelation — that of a ruling 
God, is more frequent, as the time seems barren of accomplishment. 


At the first the men of spiritual perception were sharp, curt, and 
sudden in action, and their representations are, although vigorous, 
to us rude, and suggest a close fight with times that were little alive 
to spiritual facts. But by-and-by the conception of God becomes 
broadened, personal experience and national teaching and the Holy 
Spirit striving in men's souls, enlarge the spiritual prospect of the 
men who lived in the middle period of Jewish prophecy, and from 
this period we can gather more fully the principles in these prophecies 
and teachings, and can see in them that which was really Divine, 
and at the same time what was really Divine in the Jewish literature 
and life. It was, to state it shortly, the perception in history, by 
means of a developed spiritual capacity, of spiritual truth — of a 
Divine order of things on which the human reposes. The "day of 
the Lord," for example, spoken of from the earliest times in which 
larger events began to be viewed with reference to the growing con- 
ception of the spiritual sphere, was felt always to be near at hand. 
It was no mere figure of prophecy, but a spiritual fact. It threat- 
ened the nation in Joel's time with- real and not imaginary evil, sur- 
rounding them with undoubted historical colouring. In Isaiah and 
Jeremiah it is still the same, and in the time of Christ it is as vividly 
historical. But in all of them there is an element that is unhis- 
torical, which, while true in its historical setting, points at the same 
time to a period beyond. That which is a spiritual manifestation in 
this and other Old Testament utterances that look predictive is the 
latter element, that which is sensible is the historic. That which 
is revelation in the present case, as in every event, is that the day is 
the* Lord's. This day is not one but many ; and the Jewish mind 
was taught to perceive, by a spiritual cognition, these occurrences 
that happened to their own nation not as mere historic sequences, 
but as Divine events, having in them that significance and spiritual 
importance which may yet become more fully visible to the spiritual 
eye in the grand fulfilment. To take this one instance, we see the 
forms gradually drop away from the idea of the " great and terrible 
day " of the Hebrew seers, until the spiritual truth stands out in 
Christ relieved of all such, and the times and seasons are felt to be 
in the Father's hands. And so is it with other great spiritual verities 
in the Old Testament : the course of their development is marked 
by a relief from all that was national, temporal, and limiting. At 
first the spiritual manifestations among the Jews were held in some- 
thing like physical bonds ; their conceptions of much that related to 
the religious life were tightly bound about with the cerements of the 


earthly; and these were never wholly unloosed until the great 
spiritual Revealer came, and made that which was universal in the 
higher manifestation in Israel stand forth resplendent. We can 
see this universality even in the special Judaistic form, gathering 
strength and persistency and beauty in its chrysalis folds. The 
spiritual had been manifesting itself to men gifted with powers more 
or less capable of perceiving it. As one has said, the prophets of 
ancient Israel were " like the chorus in the world's drama." The 
entire nation, with its institutions, its national relations to other 
peoples, is, in the light of Jewish history, one great spiritual reve- 
lation. It was a concrete manifestation of the kingdom of God upon 
the earth, but panting constantly after a more ideal and spiritual 
manifestation. The events within it were more than mere national 
occurrences, they were spiritual phenomena as well. It appears to 
have been the school for educating the spiritual in man, and pre- 
paring it, by partial and fragmentary revelations, for the perfect 
manifestation in Christ. The true Israel within the kingdom had 
the veil drawn aside from the course of human affairs. Their actions, 
whether as successes or failures, were perceived to be not alone the 
results of national antecedents; they were regarded above every- 
thing as manifestations of a kingdom of spiritual power and in- 



" He left not Himself without witness." 

No subject of inquiry, perhaps, in the present day engages more 
attention than the question concerning the relation between the 
different religions of the world. Some of the previous chapters may, 
by a few, be considered to have closed this investigation so far as 
we are concerned. Mythology, however, is no more religion than 
theology is religion. We have really learned very little about the 
religious life, and spiritual impulses of a people, when we have gained 
an introduction to their pantheon. The vitality of the Divine force 
in them is scarcely to be caught thus crystallised. What estimation 
could any one, in some thousands of years hence, form of the 
strength of spiritual life in our day from any standard theological 
treatise that should unfortunately survive so long P It must strike 
every one who thinks on the matter at all, that as a theology con- 
veys feeble, if any pulsations of the spiritual life throbbing in the 
heart of a nation, so a mythology cannot make very audible to us 
the beatings of the religious life of other days. For these we must 
look to the general literature of the people, if there be any ; because 
wherever this is genuine, and not merely artistic, it is the utterance 
of national life, and moves responsive to it. We must know their 
institutions and their varied social relations. It is in these that we 
shall see the spiritual life of a people reflected. What consciousness 
they had of any thing higher than time and sense will preserve itself, 
according to its strength, in some vital way, for nowhere do men 
willingly let the good die. And behind all literature and all na- 
tionality there lies the recognition, vague enough sometimes, of the 
Divine. Tradition has preserved it where the after-consciousness 
of the people had become blind to its perception. When commu- 
nities had forgotten the truths of this higher life, and had lost even 
the faculty of seeing them, occasional gifted men in doubt and hesi- 
tancy suggested them. Most nations have had their Divine law- 
givers as well as the Jews .their Moses ; most have had fitful inti- 
mations of a spiritual order in life, of which names of founders, and 
systems of belief dimly understood, alone remain to us. No one 


can doubt that there were spiritual impulses in a Buddha and a 
Zoroaster, that feelings of deep susceptibility to sin Were shown by 
the offerer of sacrifices at the Egyptian shrine, as he killed his 
animal and smote upon his breast, praying that his sins and calami- 
ties might fall upon his victim. God is a God that loveth justice, 
and we can scarcely credit the existence of a state in the spiritual 
world that we should look upon with horror in the natural. We 
believe there is such a thing as selection in life — in spiritual life as 
well as in vegetable and animal ; but the theory of natural selection 
is very different from the theological one of election, and we believe 
expresses a great truth more correctly. The idea of election, as 
sometimes explained, is revolting to our common sense of fairness 
when introduced to account for the extraordinary development of 
spiritual life among the Jews. That God called this people to a 
specific work is a great fact ; but He called them, because they 
showed themselves fitted for His great purposes. In fact, a call in 
the spiritual sense is only the Divine side of fitness for any work. 
The Jews were His chosen people in the sense that all life now 
existing is His choice, that is, in the sense that they best conformed 
to the principles of the life which they were destined to represent. 
This can be the only acceptable sense in which a rational man can 
entertain the doctrine of election even in the individual " The 
glory and honour of the nations " which God shall bring into the 
new Jerusalem, will simply be those types of humanity who have 
stood the test of spiritual selection — those whose lives are " hid with 
Christ in God," and who have striven to be perfect like their Father 
in heaven. 

Men started in natural life with faculties or potentialities of 
faculties alike, and an environment in which they might be exer- 
cised; and the probability is, that the same thing took place in 
spiritual life. God was not far from the Aryans no more than He 
was far from the Semites, but He was not always felt by both to be 
equally near. Without any latitude of expression, we may say that 
revelation dawned upon the pagan mind as it did upon the Jewish, 
but it appeared to the former in glimmerings so faint and amid so 
much surrounding darkness as to render the embrace of the light 
in any fulness impossible. The light shone in the darkness as it has 
never ceased to shine, but the darkness did not always persistently 
embrace it. The one factor of revelation was there, and has never 
been absent from our world, but the other factor — the human con- 
sciousness, was not always prepared for that heavenly light. In 


most cases men sank into utter unconsciousness, and played in 
fantasy with their former perceptions. It is in this way that we see 
how many religions, in the stages in which we have any historic 
account of them, exhibit the subversion of spirit to sense. There 
was a vein of morality in them, otherwise they never would have 
existed; but there, was just as much as kept them from internal 
decay, yet not enough to keep them from the destruction which came 
upon them, when encountered by a healthier moral and spiritual 
life. The conception of nature as well as of human life, in ethnic 
religions as a whole, was characterised by the subordination of the 
spiritual to the sensible, and thus followed, what has been so often 
observed in these religions as contrasted with the Jewish, a low 
state of moral consciousness. Paul describes this in his strong way 
when he says they " did not like to retain G-od in their knowledge." 
They had moral truth, on which a spiritual revelation could be 
founded, but what of moral was in these religions, was not the re- 
sult of such a revelation, but the reflection merely of that spirit of 
man that was in him. We are confronted sometimes with the fine 
moral maxims of pagan thinkers, and we shall consider afterwards 
what comparison can be most properly made between them and the 
vital truths of revelation. Suffice it to say here, that these ethical 
truths were, in the main, such approximations only to the spiritual 
as the relations of man to his fellow men could give, and did not 
flow from a feeling of the relation of all to God. Morality is, pro- 
perly speaking, the expression of the former relationship, as has 
been already pointed out, and may be conceived independent of a 
higher spiritual insight. There is here no allusion to morality as 
it is at present, and which we may afterwards find to be indebted 
to both sources. And once for all I wish it to be clearly under- 
stood that a statement of this kind is not to be interpreted as if I 
thought with some that the pagan mind was cut off from the gra- 
cious action of the Divine, and the greater portion of the human 
race, accordingly, shut up amid the sensible and evanescent. Those 
who hold such language forget that the gracious action of the Divine 
is operative in moral and natural life — that what is distinctly re- 
cognisable as Divine in them is so recognised by an inner spiritual 
consciousness, and that, therefore, revelation, as an unfolding of 
what is unseen and behind the ordinary processes of nature, need 
not be confined to the Jews alone. Other nations may have had 
spiritual communications as well, but the genius of paganism led 
it away from the strictly spiritual, while it only tried spasmodically 


to rend the veil and look behind the drapery of nature, prompted 
no doubt bj the reality of the intimations of the unseen. That 
these essays were so little effective was owing to the want of vitality 
in the spiritual part of their being ; a want which may have tended 
to the formation of systems of make-believe, whereby men deluded 
themselves with pretended utterances from the gods. These per- 
verted efforts only produced an imaginary sphere outside, answering 
to the fancies of men's minds. A true revelation of the spiritual 
ought, on the contrary, to produce the opposite result. It should 
make an inner subjective experience, answering to the outer objective 
manifestation, The fruit of paganism in this direction was the evo- 
lution of a world of beings from its own consciousness ; but the 
world of spirit, when unveiled to man, must effect a correspondence 
in his life, and thought, with that manifested state. 

The most apparent difference between the revelation of the Divine 
among the Jews and a similar revelation among other nations is, 
that with the former it was an orderly evolution of spiritual life 
and experience, with the latter it was not. Various nations had 
men of keen insight, gifted with marvellous intuitive powers, but no 
other nation ever had, or pretended to have, a constitution whose 
very essence was that of being a spiritual kingdom. What was 
really unique in the Jewish life was the fact that it was felt to be 
surrounded by the Divine — that, taking a Jew humanly, socially, 
nationally, he was conscious of being encompassed by the spiritual. 
The ideal of the nation was that of a nation of priests to God. 
They might not all become such, but the general consciousness never 
failed to have this ideal brought before it by the few who struggled 
to attain it and who felt the Divine Word stirring within them. 
A man like Moses, more powerfully moved than his fellows by the 
hand of the Lord upon him, that is, profoundly alive to the reality 
of the Divine relations in which he stood, communicated his life to 
the slumbering men of the community. He and those who came 
after him were not themselves independent of the men who pre- 
ceded them. It is not always a new revelation which they have to 
give, nor is it necessarily a new fact that they have the capacity of 
spiritually perceiving. They have the gift of the Spirit, which " in 
measure " was given to all the community, and had been developed 
more or less in its successive members, while it reached in a few 
only to a vigour that still astonishes every man of spiritual insight. 
Moses re-delivers an old truth, which had become obscure, adding 
thereto a truth first uttered by himself. He recalls, for example, the 


chosen people to the recognition of tbte God whom their fathers 
knew — the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but he builds on this 
a new conception of the Divine. Christ comes to fulfil the law and 
the prophets as well as to proclaim new truths. 

There are no eras in history to be compared with those when the 
Spirit of God spoke to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, and invited 
him to be the head of a holy nation — when Moses revived the life 
of that people, summoned to the task by the same Spirit in the 
mountain of Horeb — when Christ, whom God raised up, founded 
a universal kingdom of righteousness on the earth. The spiritual 
thoughts of the Jewish people often reached the very lowest stage 
between these intermediate epochs, but they never seem to have been 
quite extinct. The fire was kept smouldering somewhere, until the 
Spirit of the Lord fanned the flame, and made the heart of some 
pious soul burn. In their darkest days there were some who had 
not bowed the knee to a strange god, however many might be Baying 
in their hearts, "There is no God." It must have been during 
these periods that we have the accounts of prophets and prophecies 
which, in many of their features, resemble the artificial prophetic 
spirit among Gentile nations. There were clearly seasons when the 
spirituality of the people as a whole had become nearly dead, and 
only the semblance of life remained to them. In this condition it 
was only natural that they should attempt to keep up by skill, and 
sometimes by bare cunning, the mere trick of that which was the 
natural outcome of spiritual experience. The greater prophets 
in Israel had often to raise their voices against this degenerate 
sham- deliverance of Divine messages. " When they shall say unto 
you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards 
that peep, and that mutter : should not a people seek unto their 
God? " * There can be little doubt that this artificial form of pro- 
phecy had been prevalent to a considerable extent among the Jews 
before Isaiah's day, and that it continued with decreasing power 
after his time. The story of Saul inquiring of the witch at Endor 
recorded in the book of Samuel f is the best example of the spirit 
which Isaiah here describes. Nor is the weird story without its 
comment. Saul had been moved by a very different spirit in other 
days, and had received intimations from God ; he had even been 
found among the prophets ; but the clear spiritual consciousness of 
the man became dimmed, and he felt powerless before the bewildering 

* Isa. viii. 19. 1 1 Sam. xxviii. 8, etc. 


condition of his mind and the altered state of the country, and sought 
by a forced and non-natural way, which he himself had formerly 
tried to root out as a superstition, to learn what he could only learn 
from the Divine in his own soul. The book of Chronicles * states 
the two modes of spiritual perception — the false and the true, when 
it says that Saul inquired of a familiar spirit and not of the Lord. 
One of the great spiritual blessings of the Jewish people when they 
reached the promised land after their wilderness journey was to be 
the absence of enchanters, witches, charmers, consulters with fami- 
liar spirits. Then, too, apparently as a consequence of this, they 
were to be upright with the Lord.f Acts such as that of Saul spring 
plainly from a darkening of the spiritual in men, or because, as 
Isaiah says, no light is in them. This which was only temporary 
in Israel had become constant elsewhere. The persistence of the 
spiritual idea was characteristic of the Hebrew, its evanescence was 
the feature in the Gentile. Hence the different spirit that moved 
the different peoples, and hence also the approaches which they made 
towards each other. There can be no doubt, on the face of the 
history of the Jews, that they enjoyed many peculiar advantages. 
It is always the case in every sphere, that to those who have more is 
given. The spiritual element in the Jewish character, evoked in a 
past which we can only in some instances faintly imagine, had been 
from time to time asserting itself. Like other growths, it was sub- 
ject to periods of decadence, but arose out of them with a fresher 
and more vigorous vitality. It had its winters of barrenness, but 
the springs and summers came. Although Divine, and under 
Divine influences, it was far from arbitrary. No unconditional pro- 
sperity attended this germ in Palestine ; no unconditional adversity 
attended it elsewhere. "In every nation he that feareth" God 
" and doeth righteousness is accepted with Him." It is only in 
this way that we can explain those allusions bj Moses, Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, to the corruption of the spiritual in the Jewish 
national life, the burden of which is, " The prophets prophesy lies 
in My name : I sent them not, neither have I commanded them : 
they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing 
of nought, and the deceit of their hearts." J " The word of the 
Lord," "the oracle of Jehovah," "He saith," had been frequently 
used by those to whom the Lord had never spoken. The blight 
of unbelief fell on many a heart in this chosen people, but there is 

• 1 Chron. x. 13. t Deut. xviii. 11-13. { J er. xiv. 14. 


through it all a note distinguishing their history from all other 
history. We cannot help admiring it all the more, from the extreme 
veracity that lies on the pages of this written history. There is 
always the consciousness of their witness for the Divine, but there 
is never absent from the minds of their greatest spirits and their 
unknown chroniclers the feebleness of this testimony. Heathenism, 
too, has its best explanation in the lapses of Judaism. The ten- 
dency in common minds to debase the supernatural into the merely 
superstitious was not absent from the Jews, as it is not an unusual 
thing in our own days. Men will not endure the conditions of com- 
munion with the Unseen made known to Abraham : " Walk before 
Me, and be thou perfect." Purity of heart, which has been the 
source of every genuine prophet's vision, is lost, the spiritual con- 
sciousness becomes deadened, and mechanical means are invented 
to restore the union. Bwald* has, we think, come very near the 
truth when he says that visions and dreams were not the vehicles 
of prophetic inspiration in the ideal of prophecy. It is at least a 
very noticeable fact, that all the attempts resorted to in order to 
induce the prophetical state are to be found during periods before 
the more spiritually minded seers had declared their visions, or after 
the impulse of their utterances had died out. They approached 
more and more towards the perfect prophet to whom the Lord was 
to speak without vision — face to face, and we see in them at the 
same time a more decided opposition to anything like artificiality, f 
The book of Daniel is the great exception to this, an exception 
which is by no means without its support to grave reasons for 
holding it a literary product of a later era. Calmness and dignity 
in the messengers of Jehovah are becoming more manifest. The 
ecstaoy and incoherence that are the result of fasting and music dis- 
appear, and the element that stands out in these men is seen to be a 
moral and spiritual perception of the most vivid description. The 
voice of Ood in their soul is a powerful voice, but there is no force 
in it overmastering consciousness. There is a decided mental ac- 
tivity. Clearness and distinctness of consciousness are never lost, 
nor are the mental processes obscured in the records of extreme 
bodily prostration. Daniel even is represented as alive to all the 
incidents that took place during his vision. The rapturous orac- 

* " Die Lehre der Bibel yon Gott ; " crater Band. 

t Outside Judaism we can see that Buddha, too, is a long way removed from 
unnatural excitement. 


ular utterance in paganism was certainly a very different thing. The 
duplicity of it was notorious ; and both, we are persuaded, arose from 
the artificial nature of the operation, and the consequent indefinite- 
ness in conception of what was really spiritual. There was some 
vague distinction between the spiritual and non-spiritual, but no 
definitely realised spiritual sphere. What strikes us particularly in 
Judaism is distinctness in its idea of spiritual truth. The prophet, 
for instance, is not content with hasty guesses, but resorts to con- 
templation and communion with Gocf before declaring His word. 

Depth of moral and spiritual life is the striking feature of these 
Hebrew prophets, and not so much ability to prognosticate the future. 
If they had any insight at all, they must of course descry what was 
to come. A man who knows well the past and present, as they did, 
and observes the spiritual principles in both, will see at the same time 
what is looming in the distance.* For the prophets' foresight is, 
after all, the foresight of principles mainly, and in the fewest in- 
stances that of events. They had more at heart the purification of 
this holy people than the forecasting of the future, and it was their 
vision of what should be, and their sense of what is not but what 
might be, and what they, in the confidence of their hearts, felt there 
would be, that made their vision so keen. Elsewhere, as with them in 
dark times, the spiritual power became a mere system of enchantment. 
Its designs had no sweep, but were confined to private ends ; it lost 
sight of the Divine purposes in national and universal life ; and with 
this absence of spiritual vision came absence of that simplicity which 
is an unfailing mark of reality and universality, in spiritual as well 
as other matters, and the prime characteristic of the legitimate Jewish 

But although the result was so different, it may be well to mark 
distinctly the great cause of this divergence of spiritual character, 
as found in Judaism and beyond it. Looking back, as we do, into 
the past, from a point where the spiritual vision should be clear of 

* In an essay on " The Definition and Method of Political Economy," Mr. 
Mill, after describing the processes of analysis and synthesis as applied to social 
questions, says, " If these various operations could be correctly performed the 
result would be prophecy, but as they can be performed only with a certain 
approximation to correctness, mankind can never predict with absolute certainty, 
but only with a less or greater degree of probability." May not prophetic pre- 
diction be the result of corresponding operations in the spiritual sphere, and 
liable to a like uncertainty according to the clearer or darker spiritual insight of 
the prophet and the truth or falsity of his accumulated religious experiences ? 


all the mists and vapours engendered by contemporaneous life, we 
may see more plainly what was common to Judaism and paganism, 
and what was diverse in both. And this we must see was common 
to them as it is to men everywhere now, that the same principles 
run through the life of all. From one point of view, the records of 
Judaism as a nation, are like the records of other nations, but there 
is this decided difference between them, as is stated elsewhere in 
another form, that the Hebrew was conscious of his dependence on a 
Father in heaven, and retained a faith at all times in His rule and 
governance, while the others did not. And this produced in the 
Jews that entire distinctiveness of life and literature, which is only 
occasional in other literatures. It developed in Jewish life a faith, 
which among other peoples took the form of a regret or a longing. 
It gave that which is so prominent in their writings — the hopes and 
glorious expectation of a future, brighter than could be naturally 
anticipated from many a present evil time. There is nothing more 
striking (as has been noticed again and again) in any ancient litera- 
ture than this exultant spirit of the Hebrews. While other nations 
were looking to the past, as an imaginary rest for their wearied 
spirits, from the disorders, and wrongs, and violences, that eddied 
around them, the Jewish spirit descried deliverance in the future, 
and calmly prognosticated a time when righteousness should rule, 
and peace be triumphant in the earth. The golden age of the heathen 
was behind him, and he was ever further and further receding from 
its view ; the golden age of the Hebrew was before him, and he was 
hastening on to its approach. The gods of the heathen were believed 
to have held communion with men in the past, but the future showed 
little sign of a renewal of that happy state ; the G-od of the Hebrews 
was to reveal Himself and His truth in the future as He had not 
done before. The night of evil and sin — the cloud of war and selfish- 
ness, was often surrounding both : but to the one it was deepening 
into a darker gloom and a more impenetrable shade ; to the other, 
even in the night, the stars shone clear, and the sky was already 
streaked with faint gleams that heralded a happy dawn.* The 
Old Testament is jubilant of the future, both of man and nature ; 
its writers had attained a conception, which, philosophically, is but 
of comparatively modern date, namely, that of human perfectibility : 
but it was to them more than a mental idea ; it was a confidence — 

* This, with a people that had a garden of Eden among its traditions, is all the 
more remarkable. 


an unclouded faith, sustained by the thought which impregnated 
their whole life, that God was directing their ways. Their past 
career showed this, their uniform spiritual experience made them 
feel, that the future history of man was a history devised in the 
counsel of Jehovah; and feeling this, what other prospect could 
they entertain than that of the final restoration of this earth from 
the hands of evil, the final overthrow of iniquity, injustice, misrule, 
and tyranny, and the establishment of holiness, justice, and equity ? 
Science has inherited this Hebrew hopefulness, and extended its 
application in many directions, and with a definiteness of which 
the Hebrew did not dream. We are much mistaken if the anti- 
cipatory character of modern times has not, in the main, a religious 
basis — if all that is most characteristic of the scientific spirit, its 
patience, calm, and foresight, have not their origin in the religious 
temperament. It is at all events owing to this element in Jewish 
life, that modern history to the spiritual eye is not silent on the 
grand truth, that at her helm, guiding the seemingly reeling vessel 
of human progress and human civilisation, is the Lord of all. The 
sea of life may sometimes be rough ; often, as we have all seen, the 
waves run high, nor ship nor helmsman is seen amid the raging surf, 
and men are well nigh in despair, and tremble for the frail ark that 
bears the framework of society and the humanities, won so hardly 
from the past. But even then the man of profound spiritual con- 
sciousness descries, through the shifting storm-cloud, the everlasting 
stars, and hears, above the noise of the waves, " Peace, be still,*' and 
beholds the ark, no longer frail, but like a stately craft, pursuing 
its onward course. It is hopes like these, based on spiritual experi- 
ence, which make the Jewish history more than the ordinary re- 
cords of a nation. A history proper, we know, would have con- 
tented itself with the investigation of the causes that advanced or 
retarded the national wellbeing. But what have we in the Old 
Testament P This, it is true, but very much subordinated to the 
manifestations made to man's spiritual consciousness of the Divine 
powers that were operating through these acts. The spiritual re- 
velation to the spiritual in man, a pure science of history does not 
and cannot touch ; its data must be relegated to our spiritual facul- 
ties. The acts in the Jewish history are revelations as much as the 
words spoken through prophets, for revelation consists, not in any 
form of words, but in a manifestation of a sphere of being. 

It has not been shown, and we fear cannot be explained, how the 
spiritual life first formed itself in the Jewish character — how, for 



example, that idea of themselves as a people of God, a holy nation 
with real spiritual and Divine relations, took root so firmly in the 
consciousness of the community. When any new advance is gained 
in the life and career of a people, it can usually be shown with some 
approach to correctness what the element or elements were, which, 
entering into its life and thought, gave impulse to a new develop- 
ment. In this way we can, for example, account for the dawn of 
what is called the modern period of European history. The princi- 
pal elements that went to the formation of the altered circumstances 
of this society are given us in the union of the ancient with the 
new German world, and the combination of both with Christianity, 
then working in national life, as has been often pointed out. If we 
show that in this way, and in no other, the resultant development 
took place, we are said to account for the later aspects of .life in 
European society, however much these may have differed from the 
individual elements that produced them. We can do the same for 
the life of any smaller section of a people. We may explain any 
given change, by the various forces, which uniting, formed the new 
resultant in social existence. In the ordinary progress of thought, 
we follow a like course with considerable success, tracing the evol- 
utions of systems of philosophy, and the progression of science and 
scientific ideas, and exhibiting their connection with previous stages 
through combination with new thoughts or observations. In trying 
the same method with Jewish thought and life, we find an element 
which ordinary history does not give us, which is still continually 
present the further we go back in Jewish history, but the origin of 
which we cannot derive from any previous natural outgrowth merely. 
To do this, we should have to show how this people carried up the 
elements of some preceding time, by some visible and accountable 
process, into another stage. The later development of spiritual life 
among them may be seen to have its affiliation on what preceded ; 
but our difficulty is to see what ordinary natural process can account 
for Judaism out of naturalism. It is not a higher form of natural- 
ism, and defeats every attempt to resolve it into this. Its only point 
of contact with naturalism, as we have seen, is the " seeking 
after ; " but there is that which differentiates it from all forms of 
naturalism, viz., that there is always a more or less definite object 
after which it seeks. Strictly historical as a nation, with real 
national existence and actual national relations, there is the other 
side of its life, which with it is the all-important side, and to dis- 
tinguish which we oan only call it the spiritual, the Divine, as a 


phenomena in their life and literature not to be denied, nor on 
historical grounds alone to be explained. So far, on the contrary, 
as we have materials in history, and where these are not given ns, 
so far as we have the materials which the family of languages sup- 
plies, we can explain the ordinary changes in the life and thought 
of other primitive peoples. We can partially trace the Pelasgic my- 
thological development to its eastern Aryan home, and show, in some 
measure, how its later, modified its earlier development. There is, 
undoubtedly, much that is obscure on such subjects in connection 
with the history of Egypt and Babylon, for instance, but, so far as 
they have been investigated, there appears a rational and apparently 
historical groundwork for the phases of thought presented by 
these and other nations. We do not meet there with a vein of ex- 
perience and thought that transcends the historic, as we do in 
Judaism. Much of what forms the staple of their religion is indeed 
philosophic in its origin. The system of religion which, perhaps, 
has most adherents is Buddhism, but Buddhism is more a meta- 
physical theory than a religious faith. Indeed there are grounds for 
the belief that pure Buddhism is wanting in the first conception of 
all religious faith, namely God. Its primary principles of life, de- 
sire, and activity are a simple philosophic thesis, and it was itself, 
perhaps, a philosophic revolt from priestcraft, a philosophism which, 
like others in the East, was transmuted into a popular religion.* In 
Judaism, we are persuaded, there is something which shows it to be 
more than the self development of a peculiar mode of thought 
What union of forces, new and old, and different from those that 
form other nationalities, moulded the character of this people? 
How were they severed in thought and feeling and national idiosyn- 
crasy, in institution, in almost everything that concerns a people,, 
save in their humanity, from even the neighbouring Semitic races ? 
There is a fact in this connection worth noticing, that while attain- 
ing great elevation! in moral and spiritual life, the Jews did not 
reach a corresponding elevation in the domain of ordinary mental 
activity. Most likely they had made some progress here also, but 
their records, as I have noticed, are significantly silent on the sub- 
ject, which would seem to show that such culture had no strong 
hold upon the Jews as a nation. 

* In the present state of knowledge and divided opinion on this subject, it is 
evident to all that we cannot place muoh reliance on any definite reading of 

K 2 


We are often in the habit of supposing that superiority in one 
sphere of activity among a people, is generally accompanied by a 
proportionate degree of excellence in another, that is more or less 
related to it. But we find Jews inferior to others in speculative 
thought and in art. Greece, far below them in spiritual insight and 
moral power, is immeasurably superior in general civilisation. This 
may be passed over by some as a common occurrence in races. The 
mission of one, we are told, is to develop law ; of another, to ex- 
tend philosophy ; of another, to widen commerce ; of another, to 
unfold polity ; of another, to unveil religious truth. As facts, all 
must acknowledge these things ; but most men are concerned to 
know more than the bare facts. They want to know, if possible, 
how a nation with so much clearness of moral vision could, over 
such a tract of time as is represented by its writings, have had its 
energy directed supremely, if not solely, to one class of relations, 
and that it should have viewed these relations in the way they did, 
not in a metaphysical or physical aspect, but in what is peculiarly 
denominated a spiritual, or ethico-spiritual aspect. For it must be 
remembered that, with all the variety of treatment to be found in the 
Bible, — prose, poetry, history, prophecy, meditation, practical teach- 
ing, legend and myth, — the centre round which they all move is the 
same ; there is no swerving from the one point, God-man.* This is 
the be all, and end all of their literary energy, if it be mere literary 
energy, nay, of their national energy, of which their literature is but 
the reflection. It is quite true that they would have other thoughts, 
write other books ; but the one special and all-embracing activity — 
obscuring all other exertions, is the struggle to realise and express, 
in every relation of life, this great spiritual thought. From the con- 
templation of this unquestionably singular view of the relation of 
nature and man in the Hebrew mind, it seems certain that their 
mode of holding this relation, and their means of perception, what- 
ever these were, differed considerably from those of other peoples. 
They may be said to have an instinct for the religious side of things, 
as some nations have an instinct for government, only instinct is too 
vague a term, and covers too many meanings. The negative state- 
ment in this, as in many other things, is much more easily got at, and 
it is this, that the Jewish recognition of the Divine element in the 

* Perhaps the Song of Solomon, as it is called, ought to be excepted. That 
is more a pure idyllic poem in dramatic form. Nevertheless, the moving spirit 
is a moral one, and is, as has been suggested, probably directed against the 
imparity of Solomon's court. 


external world, and in human affairs, was not the resnlt of logical 
thought and mental excogitation on the phenomena these worlds sup- 
plied to their senses. It was not the outcome of philosophy ; it is 
astonishingly free from all the entities and abstractions, which invari- 
ably accompany such excursions into transcendent philosophy. It 
has always the stamp of reality, never the empty sound of mere 
word -jangling. There is ever a glow of life on it ; rarely, unless in 
one or two speculative books, do we see the " pale cast of thought." 
Had the nation, unaided by the Spirit of God that worked in their 
midst, producing this consciousness of the Divine and evidencing 
the Divine itself from its own consciousness, as the Germans say, 
by pure severity of thought, by reasonings from design, for instance, 
produced such splendid monuments of religious meditation and 
moral thought, such elevated spiritual poetry, or attained such pro- 
found spiritual insight into the workings of national events, we 
would have been disappointed to find that it did not equal or sur- 
pass other nations, in the pursuit of what is regarded as philosophic 
truth. If their knowledge of the spiritual and the Divine was the 
outcome of ordinary mental activity, such a clear and vigorous out- 
come of thought must have co-existed with what, in other places, 
are the usual concomitants of mental life. If it is the fruit of dis- 
cursive thought alone, where are the stages through which it must 
have passed, before reaching the result that has come down to us ? 

The Jewish religious books bear throughout, marks of a peculiar 
line of activity. The spiritual truths in them are directly and im- 
mediately perceived, not indirectly and mediately. It takes the 
shape of a Divinely manifested revelation, working in the awakened 
spiritual consciousness of the people. We see this better when we 
come to its fuller manifestations — when the higher development of the 
spiritual consciousness among the people had been reached, and the 
last and most beautiful and perfect efflorescence of the spiritual, for 
which the course of Jewish thought and life had been preparing, 
and towards which each new realisation had been approximating, 
bloomed. The answer to such inquiries, as we have mentioned, re- 
garding the primary source of these preparatory revelations, and all 
revelations, lies in the description of the perfect Bevealer, as one to 
whom the Spirit was given without measure ; who, therefore, spoke 
with authority, which is always distinctive of revealed truth, and 
who declared God as no one had ever done, because He is in the 
bosom of the Father. Historical reasons alone have failed utterly 
to account for the ideal realisation of Jewish life and thought, as 


they failed to account for the preparatory fulfilments. In Christ we 
have, so far as we yet know, the ultimatum of Divine revelation to 
man. What was vague in Judaism, became definite in Christ ; what 
was local, and there was much that was so, became universalised. 
The revelation of God is more elevated, the medium is pure and un- 
disturbed, and contrasts strongly with earlier visions and ecstatic 
states ; the human, the natural, bodies forth perfectly the Divine. 
Christ in His person is that, of which miracle essentially considered 
is the reflection, viz., the Divine in the human, the supernatural in 
the natural, and this is the distinctive feature of all revelation. Pa- 
ganism, as a whole, missed this relation, which received its organic 
development in Judaism alone, a kind of development which, as 
Bunsen thinks, conclusively manifests the reasonableness of religious 
truth. No life power which was based on unreason could have 
existed so long. If Judaism and Christianity had not met, and satis- 
fied the religious aspirations of men, and been in the main true to 
their spiritual nature, they would not have found the response which 
they have found. This may seem to cut two ways : in accounting for 
the spread of other systems as well as that of Christianity. It no 
doubt does so. These systems, although for the most part yearnings, 
and yearnings often after what was anything but spiritual, had a true 
spiritual source, and, therefore, contained elements of truth. To the 
consciousness of man everywhere, more or less clear visions and 
premonitions were imparted, but these were not so regularly and per- 
severingly followed out anywhere, as in Judaism, and the consequence 
is, that the Jews advanced in religious perception while others have 
remained comparatively stationary, where they have not retrograded. 
It is not difficult, as so many have done, and as we are regularly in 
the habit of doing (what has very likely been done in the course of 
this essay) to write antithetical sentences, the points of which are 
paganism and Christianity ; but antitheses of this kind are highly 
dangerous. Marks of heathenism, from the Christian stand-point, 
may be readily noted, as, for example, its tendency to the humanistic 
element with all the consequences of that tendency, and its limita- 
tion ; and these are contrasted with the absence of hero worship in 
Christianity and the universal scheme of the Christian religion. 
On the other hand, from a wider platform, such, for example, as that 
which Paul occupied at Athens, we can see evidences of a perception 
of the Divine in pagan thought ; echoes in all the Indian, Persian, 
and Egyptian systems of a clearer faith, than the records of later 
times would lead us to expect ; .and in Judaism tendencies to lapse, 


and departures from the spiritual ideal of the nation that bring the 
Jews into contact with the whole family of mankind. Enchantment, 
sorcery, witchcraft, the saws of death-beds, and as many artificialities 
as elsewhere ; denial of the Divine ; immorality and debased priest- 
craft, against which the men of spiritual thought protested with 
vehemence. In paganism we have dawnings of the Divine ; in 
Judaism and in Christianity remnants of paganism ; or what phy- 
sical philosophers would call rudimentary forms and survivals. The 
teaching of facts like these is obvious ; they should preserve us from 
blind admiration on the one hand, and indiscriminate objection on 
the other. There are many ways of working out the world plan we 
may be certain, and not one way only. What we consider aberra- 
tions from the spiritual, are not without significance in the light 
of the growth of our whole nature. Judaea did not contain every 
good. If Greece, for example, was an aberration, as it is called, it 
was not withont beauty, and of a kind of beauty which, if we would 
judge from the actions of men, the world would be sorry to have 
missed. There are various forces necessary for the production of 
such a complex result, as the perfection of humanity, which is the 
object of the Christian religion : " Be ye perfect, even as your 
Father which is in heaven is perfect." Judaism was one of these 
forces, and the most important one. But the others, derived from 
paganism, although second in relative importance, were no less 
necessary for the accomplishment of what we this day witness. In 
Judaea we see the growth of a spiritual capacity in man, outside 
the influences of a very high state of civilisation, and in paganism 
there appears the steady growth of civilised communities, independ- 
ent in a large measure of spiritual impulses. It is notorious how 
one-sided men become in all their struggles. Eager pursuit of one 
object induces a certain amount of disregard to what lies even a 
little beyond this. Races, absorbed in search after the Divine ele- 
ment in life, show comparative indifference to other elements, even 
as attention concentrated on the side of life that is not, strictly 
speaking, divine, ends frequently in the entire exclusion of the 
spiritual. It is well for the complete advancement of each type, 
that different men should think their own mission the most im- 
portant, and should work it out under the sway of such an engross- 
ing feeling as I have indicated. It is this very intense concentra- 
tion that makes any work a mission. But the two missions must 
ultimately unite if the entire man is to be perfected. Culture and 
religion have need of each other, and to effect an organic union, we 


must have the best type of spiritual life, and the best form of civili- 
sation. Looked at in this way, the controversy, if snch there be, 
between paganism and developed Judaism, is -but the friendly rivalry 
of two vast powers, to lay their might at the feet of Him whom they 
each, with a little knowledge, and a great deal of ignorance, have 
both been aiding to bring in the new kingdom of righteousness. 
The Jews were the nation, in which the spiritual reached its most 
perfect form, and in this sense they must be, for all time, the human 
founders of the spiritual in the earth. They most clearly saw God 
in all things, and most fully and intelligently served Him, and were 
the medium of a continuous revelation of His will. They were in 
the deepest sense a holy people, and realised the highest life of man 
upon earth, — a life of faith in God, walking by the unseen, in time 
feeling themselves enveloped by eternity. This is the meaning of 
their history to us, as distinct from other histories ; a people and a 
history which we distinguish by the name of spiritual, to describe 
the relation in which all things were viewed by them, and the posi- 
tion which they held in the life of our race. 




" Alle absoluten Wahrheiten Bind falsch ; Relationen dagegen koimen genau sein." 

It is necessary to insist upon the view already stated, that by 
Scripture revelation is to be understood, not revelation itself, but 
the record of it. It should never be forgotten that revelation, in 
itself considered, is a very different thing from the manner in 
which tradition has handed it down to us. Revelation proper, can 
only be to the spiritual in man; it is the Divine acting on the 
human. It implies, as has been said, a manifestation and a condi- 
tion of spirit fitted for such a manifestation. We have seen reason 
to believe that man could form no true conception of spiritual facts 
from nature, and that no revelation of these was given in con- 
science. Nevertheless, we have recognised traces in the histories of 
religions other than the Jewish and Christian, and in many efforts 
of thought, that evidence a capacity in man susceptible to something 
else than the phenomena of the external world. We have not gone 
thus far without seeing signs here and there, of dawnings of what 
may be called a God-consciousness. This required everywhere to 
be enlightened and informed, strengthened and stimulated. What 
is of most importance in the preceding chapters is the proof they 
supply, that this consciousness is a genuine part of man's nature, 
and capable of development according to its own laws — that only 
through, the growth of this spiritual faculty, can we receive im- 
pressions of that condition of things which it is the function of 
this faculty to take cognisance of. The character of the spiritual 
is such that the common eye cannot discern it, and the ordinary 
course of things cannot suggest it to the mind of man. The 
Scripture record is the account of this revelation as perceived by the 
Jews, and as given by Christ, who was its concrete expression, its 
fulness and brightness. Most people will acknowledge that a writ- 
ten form is the most secure method of preserving an objective spirit- 
ual revelation, although some serious questions have presented 
themselves to men's minds, respecting the character of this written 
revelation, and the relation it bears to the manifestation itself. 


There can be no doubt that the two are different. The most that 
this written record can pretend to be, is an historic account of the 
substance of revelation, and we think it nowhere claims to be more. 
Bat the question is further asked : Is it an infallibly correct account 
of these Divine manifestations ; and if not, how far does it fall Bhort 
of this ? We must postpone to a later chapter, another question 
which is sometimeB put : How far does it touch on other spheres of 

It is very remarkable, that, in the record itself, so little is said 
about the qnestion of the authority of its writings, either by the 
Old Testament writers or the new. There are allusions certainly, 
which we shall notice in their proper place ; but they do not amount 
to very much, in themselves considered, and far less when we re- 
member the age and the men. It was an uncritical time, fortunately 
for them as well as for us, and men were naturally concerned more 
with what was said, than with how it was said. There can be no 
mistake about our first position in regard to this question of the 
Scripture writings, that they have a natural element in them. 
There is nothing marvellous in the fact that the Jews and early 
Christians had a literature. That was to be expected. All modes 
' of human activity seek expression, and spiritual activity is no ex- 
ception. Thoughts of any kind have to be communicated and seek 
a voice. Spiritual thoughts, coming as they did with intense moral 
earnestness, and concerning all men as much as the man to whom 
they were made known, yea, taking the shape of messages to his 
fellow men from their God, must find winged words. Publicity is 
essential to them, and the first mode of publication in Judaea, as in 
all early states, would be the address of the prophet himself. All 
early Hebrew history is proof of this. Literary action is the ex- 
ception, speech and tradition are the primal forms that the revela- 
tion of spiritual truth takes. The early history of the Jewish 
nation floated in the national mind, in song or tale, long before it 
took shape or formed part of their literature ; and it was the same, 
no dbubt, with their later histories. The utterances of Moses, for in- 
stance, and the songs that belong to his time, were first heard by the 
assembled multitude. The easy, unrestrained bonds of traditional 
lore held the first communications of the spiritual to men's souls, and 
the earlier experiences of God's people, and much of its vitality and 
naturalness, is owing to his medium. Men would have no disputes, 
or endless theories about the inspiration of their record, or its falli- 
bility, and could have no inducement to reverence the letter above 


the spirit. They would get the good gift with the least thought 
possible about the vehicle. The later prophets, too, announce many 
of their burdens orally, as we may judge from the care with which 
they mention the fact that they had to write some. It is not to be 
forgotten, that many of the greatest messengers of the Divine to 
man have left no writings. Abraham's memory is a life ; of Moses 
as an author, there is more conjecture than substantial fact ; of 
Samuel, action and speech are all that we possess; of Christ 
Himself, we have the simple words and daily life, collected and 
written by others. Literary activity was weakest at the precise time 
when the spiritual force at work was Strongest : the great eras in 
revelation are those least marked by writing ; the great men are 
those that have contributed least to our Bible, but have given most 
to our spiritual life. But the impulse from such men, living in the 
memory of the nation, took shape as it always does. Around patri- 
archal life the spiritual activity played, and worked it into literary 
shape ; the same was done for the great lawgiver, the great judges, 
and the great Bevealer — each history growing out of some one or 
more great personalities. The stages of this growth are not quite 
so simple as we are too apt to imagine. The books did not drop 
down from heaven and find their places mysteriously in the Jewish 
canon, but must have passed through many and various transfor- 
mations, as they were delivered from mouth to mouth, and then 
from hand to hand, and finally took a fixed literary shape. The 
same is true of prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, for 
example. The prophecies of these Hebrew seers, however, would 
not always have reached those for whom they were intended, if 
they had been merely spoken in the ears of the people. We may, 
therefore, safely say that circumstances must sometimes have dic- 
tated another form. Like guardians, as they were following, the 
steps of national life, susceptible to every movement that nearly 
or remotely affected it, their utterances would be varied. When 
spiritual vitality was low in the land, complaint, threat, and pro- 
mise broke from the servant of the Lord ; when enemies without 
were harassing the holy people, the watchman cried aloud from his 
watch tower. These utterances have all the startling effect of daily 
warnings for daily need ; they are written or spoken under the pres- 
sure of actual events. We have them, however, in a form altogether 
different. They stand in our collection like the continuous pro- 
duct of one mental state, the literary effort of one mind ; but this 
is the result of another and later condition of society, than that in 


which the prophecies were made. The same is true of their sacred 
psalms and proverbs, as we possess them. They are all collections 
of a later and literary age, the outcome of editors and compilers. 
Many of the authors would be unknown, but this was not material.* 
The work is not, in the first instance, dependent on the authorship, 
but on the spirit that animates it. This- spirit was felt to be one, 
in whomsoever it was found active. Many in Isaiah's time, for ex- 
ample, would have more or less of the same spirit as the great 
prophet, and give forth their visions on the religous condition of 
the people. The greater name would overshadow the lesser names, 
and the larger light absorb the rays that came from Bmaller lumi- 
naries, and blend them with its own. Thus, around the great 
national prophets, as around the great national leaders, a literature 
would be formed, the main elements of which had been perhaps 
contributed by them, either in vigorous speech, or more elaborate 
composition, but to which additions would be continually made by 
later times, from the utterances of contemporary men, gifted with a 
like spirit and probably inspired by them, and, in fact, what we now- 
a-days call, their disciples. This principle of grouping has been 
recognised in the collection of psalms, which in common speech 
still pass under the great name of David, although it is certain that 
some of them were composed long before his time and many, per- 
haps most of them, long after his death. It is very probable that 
the smallest number actually are from the pen of David. The songs 
that are more indisputably his, are to be found rather in the his- 
torical books. But David was to the Hebrew the type of spiritual 
poesy, and the scattered fragments of national songs and odes 
ranged themselves readily under the poet-king, to whom in large 
measure the development of this gift is, according to Jewish tradi- 
tion, traceable. The book of Proverbs, that bears the name of Solo- 
mon, whose memory was held in esteem for the kind of sayings 
which this collection has preserved, is another example of the aggre- 
gation of a species of literature round its recognised founder or most 
famous contributor. This in a smaller measure is true of some of 
the individual parts of the New Testament ; in its fall extent it 
could not be, because literature had, before this time, taken the place 
of mere tradition. The histories of our Lord, called the gospels, have, 

* It might be material in cases where the spirit was doubtful ; and that is 
perhaps, the reason, as has been remarked, why pieces of little or no spiritual 
import, in the strict sense of the term, have been placed under the names of 
well-known men. 


however, their primitive source in oral deliverance, and took shape at 
a later period into consecutive narrative, with a certain more or less 
defective chronological arrangement. There are reasons, likewise, 
for believing that floating records of Christ's early history, have been 
added as fragments to some of these histories, in much the same 
manner as that in which additions were made to books in the Old 
Testament; and while the chief letters of the apostles who were 
moved to this form of activity are recognisable as theirs, there are 
none of these writers, with the exception of James, who have not 
been thought, by a large number of theologians in various times, to 
have had letters ascribed to them, which, though partaking of their 
spirit, have only found their respective places under the leading 
writers of the New Testament, in the manner before described. 

The separate writings of the Old Testament arose in a very gradual 
way, dependent on the condition of the people. The advantages 
of this form of preservation, independently altogether of revealed 
truth, have been felt by every nation ; the uncertainty of traditional 
lore must have excited men to give this flux some stable form. Ac- 
cordingly they have everywhere sought to catch their mental and 
spiritual life, and preserve it in some recognisable character on stone 
or leaf, that posterity might be enriched by the experiences of the 
past. Memory, though powerful to retain, and ready to communi- 
cate the inner life of men, would be found to lose much of its subtle 
grace and force. Accumulation of material, and a desire to give it 
expression and form becoming it, would instigate men to this work. 
Those in whom the Spirit was not creative of new conceptions, but 
receptive of the old, would seek to extend by literary execution what 
they were unable to enlarge by original contribution. And this in 
Judflea originated very likely in the so-called schools of the pro- 
phets ; probably a kind of literary colleges where this work began 
and was perfected. That these schools were not purely establish- 
ments for cultivating the prophetic gift, is evident from the wide 
and free choice of the Spirit. For the art of literary production, a 
curriculum such as this would be highly advantageous ; but the per- 
ception of spiritual truth, springing, as it does, from keen suscepti- 
bility of soul, is a gift direct from God ; no mere training can help 
or hinder it in any great measure. But although all could not 
prophesy, every one might enter into the thoughts of the prophet, 
and some would do so with fuller sympathy than others. Those 
that could not invent might collect and publish what had been in- 
vented, — a work of love no doubt to many in the Jewish nation. 


The Spirit is nob given in like manner to all, bat all had the capa- 
city of receiving what had been given through others, and of pre- 
serving it. When great spirits are not in oar midst we recall the 
great ones of the past, and are quickened by their thoughts ; and 
when the spiritual power was low in Israel, and no messages of 
the Lord came from the month of living men, they would recall 
the messages of those of old and send them forth anew among the 
people, alive with the spirit of the men who first uttered them, and 
with the Spirit of God who had inspired them : for " a good book," 
these men felt as Milton did, " is the precious life blood of a master 
spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life." 
And their books were doubly so : they contained the covenants of 
Jehovah, His laws, His spiritual revelations, the principles of the 
nation's life, the sure grounds of their highest hopes : they had 
in them the perennial freshness of everlasting truth, and were 
of vital importance to every age. They felt that the Lord was 
speaking to the people there, if only they could be made to listen 
to His voice. 

The consolidation of this literature into the form in which we 
have it, was a much later act. The principle at the base of this, 
which is called the canon, is essentially that stated by Bunsen, that it 
was formed by the Jews out of faithful loyalty to past and rever- 
ence for the organs of the Spirit who lived with them. All accounts 
of the canon that may be imagined must resolve themselves into this. 
We have no desire to enter into the history of this consolidation 
or to give the steps of its formation. A great deal of such history 
must be arbitrary, and what is reliable and likely, has been already 
indicated in the account of the growth of the component parts. As 
separate books in which the spirit of the people was reflected were 
composed, so would a compilation of books be made, to meet the 
growing demands of the nation. The literary efforts of the people, 
guided by the spirit that was dominant in the nation, would from 
time to time add to the utterances that were considered by the 
spiritual consciousness to be in harmony with the highest revela- 
tions of the Divine. It would come to be really a selection according 
to some definite rule, as the word canon itself signifies — a selection, 
however, that might be variable, and determined ultimately by the 
practice of the people as a whole, that is, by the test of adaptation 
to their spiritual needs. 

Even without the evidences which we have in the Old Testament, 
every one must have concluded that our Bible is not the full out- 


come of Jewish literary effort, bat is the result of what was con- 
sidered best in it in a spiritual view. This literature, however, 
must have been weeded to a great extent, and only that which was 
in harmony with the spiritual genius of the nation accepted.* This 
would not be the work of any one age or any one man, whether 
Ezra or Nehemiah ; but like the truth contained in the books, would 
be the fruit of the spiritual activity of the whole nation. We shall 
have something to say immediately, regarding the spirit that guided 
the nation in rounding off their spiritual literature ; but we may well 
believe that it was not so completed without some struggle and op- 
position. No one can imagine that all the books now found in the 
Old Testament, received immediately the acquiescence of every indi- 
vidual in the nation, or that portions rejected, and now lost and 
forgotten, were refused a place without the regrets of some of God's 
people. The difficulties of decision, in accepting and rejecting books, 
would be neither less nor more than the difficulties of pronouncing a 
judgment now on the books included in the canon. During the whole 
period of Jewish history there were men who approved of the law, 
but questioned a considerable portion of the other canonical books ; 
and from this extremely narrow position to the extremely broad one 
of accepting more than was commonly received there would be, as 
there is now, every grade of opinion. This happened with the New 
Testament, even in the earliest periods of its history. All who are 
acquainted with the historical evidence of the canon know, that 
our present collection of books is not the unanimous voice of the 
Church. It is still an open question with some of them, and the 
weight of proof has gone against others. 

The question is often asked now, In what light are we to regard 
this record of revelation ; and what authority is it to have with 
intelligent Christian men and women P Is it to be our koran, or are 
we to regard it with reverence yet with a critical eye ? What is the 
proper position between verbal infallibility and human authorship ? 
I shall look at the manner in which Christ and the apostles treated 
the Old Testament canon so far as we have evidence, and thereafter 
consider what view we are warranted in holding from the facts we 
have before us. 

There can be little doubt that Christ had no sympathy with tbe 

* There is evident, to take the Old Testament, a great amount of liberality in 
this selection, when one considers the book of Esther, the Song of Solomon, and 
the book of Proverbs, whose moral tone rarely reaches what we now consider a 
spiritual elevation. 


strict theories of many in His day, the final result of which was that 
all intelligible theory regarding the sacred writings had given place 
to a bondage to the mere record. It has been observed that in the 
three places where Christ speaks of this question with anything 
like precision (Matt. v. 18, or Luke xvi. 17, and Matt. xxii. 43) 
the first speaks of the law itself, not of the book of the law, and 
the last is not of a written record, but of a spoken revelation : " How 
then doth David in spirit call (xaXct) Him Lord ? " It would, however, 
be unreasonable to build any structure on such a narrow basis as 
this ; for it cannot be determined in the first place, in what pecu- 
liar sense the word v6pot is used, and in the second place *aX« might 
well enough be employed to describe the statement of the psalmist 
regarding the Messiah, without implying any distinction in Christ's 
mind between the recorded revelation, and the spoken word. The 
truth really seems to be, that Christ gives no theory on this subject 
or any other in Biblical criticism. Seers and prophets do not trou- 
ble themselves about theories. Christ accepts the revelations of 
spiritual truth in the Old Testament, and uses them as Divine facts, 
without forming for us a philosophical theory of the origin of the 
facts, far less of the mode of their transmission by writing or tra- 
dition. He does not, even in His more extended readings of the 
Scripture, as, e.g., in those recorded at the close of Luke's gospel, 
chapter xxiv., enter into details, but merely takes the prominent idea 
running through these Scriptures. We need not necessarily rush 
away to the conclusion, from this absence of theorising, that " Christ 
was limited to the knowledge of His time in His critical apparatus ; " 
all that we need say is, that Christ's object and mission was a far 
higher one than the anticipation of the historical and critical spirit 
of the 19th century in the first ; just as we shall find that it was not 
His purpose or that of any writer, either in the New Testament, or 
the Old, to anticipate by a day the scientific or philosophic spirit of 
modern times. It was Christ's freedom from system of all kinds 
that kept Him from any merely Jewish mode of conception. The 
universality of His spiritual empire is well seen in the universality 
of His teaching. It is the same with the basis of teaching in the 
Old Testament, as we have it, for example, embodied in the Ten 
Commandments. Limitation of power, spiritual as well as intellectual, 
is seen always in the fetters of some system or other. We see, ac- 
cordingly, that Christ's followers held the doctrinal view of the Old 
Testament writings current in their time, as they held certain doc- 
trinal views in philosophy. On none of these points do I think we 



can say that they were men " raised above their time," nor does this 
appear to me a view of New Testament authors in the least deroga- 
tory to them. A Christian of the present day, who fully believes and 
feels that he has the power of spiritual discernment promised him 
by Christ, does not imagine that, on scientific ground, he has an 
insight wholly unlike that of contemporaries who pretend to no such 

The apostles constantly use the common phrases when quoting the 
Old Testament. It is to them as to other Jews peculiarly fj ypaxpfj, or 
al ypacfxA ; or ayau ypaxfrn^ an expression which we shall have occasion 
to notice below. We cannot see that they distinguish one part of 
these writings, as differing in authority or otherwise, from another 
part. For anything we can gather from their phraseology they re- 
garded their sacred writings as wholly the direct word of God. 
The distinction we make between revelation and the record of it is 
not made by them. The historic or human element that might be 
in these older writings is unrecognised by them, perhaps never sug- 
gested itself to their minds. All that concerns them is the Divine 
element ; that is to them unmistakable. Their historical insight is, 
thus, that of their period. They betray no sign of having attempted 
to resuscitate the past, as the modern spirit inevitably leads us to do. 
They fail to remark, if they saw it, that the revelation granted to "holy 
men of old" was granted on an historical platform, and was thus so far 
modified and coloured by the media of time and place. The most 
extreme view of what is called inspiration, which Emerson notes, as 
that of regarding the men employed as " more or less refined blow- 
pipes through which mechanical effects were produced," might very 
probably be gathered from the writings of the New Testament 
authors. The human personages of Moses, David, Joel, Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, and the rest, with their peculiar characters and individual 
historical surroundings, are to the New Testament writers very much 
as if they had never been. Their manner of citing a passage without 
naming the particular author, shows the ^discriminating view pre- 
valent in apostolic days.* The greatest discrimination usual with 
them, is that between one scripture and another, as in John xix. 36, 
37, where the two scriptures quoted are as widely separated as Exodus 
and Zechariah. If the human author is mentioned, it is generally in 
the form, " God in the Spirit spake by the mouth of such an one," 

* This is not to bo wondered at when we see the same practice in our own days 
among a certain class of dogmatic theologians. 


as Acts i. 16, iv. 25 ; sometimes " the Holy Ghost saith," without 
mentioning the human consciousness through which the saying 
was uttered, as in Hebrews iii. 7. In the first chapter of this epistle 
to the Hebrews we have perhaps the best example of the mode of 
regarding what is called " the Scripture " in early Christian times. 
From the fifth to the ninth verse of the chapter, the quotations from 
the Old Testament are given as if spoken by God Himself ; and in 
reading to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth verses we see how the 
Divine and human in revelation, were confused by the writer. In 
these last mentioned verses the hallelujah that closes the plaintive 
cry of the writer of Psalm cii. is given as an apostrophe spoken by 
God. Of course it may be said that this is the Divine in the author 
of the psalm, addressing the Divine without him; but it is clear that 
the writer of this epistle makes no distinction between the Divine 
in the human consciousness, which was yet personal and individual, 
and God. The last verses are a continuation of the general quo- 
tation throughout this chapter, the heading of which is " He" [that 
is, God] " saith." In the psalm the suppliant concludes, " I said, 
Oh, my God, ... of old hast Thou laid the foundations," etc. 
In the epistle the writer says, " Unto the Son He [that is, God] 
saith, . . . Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the founda- 
tion," etc. There is a clear human voice in the Old Testament; we 
do not speak at present of what else there may be. In the New 
Testament it changes into the direct utterance of God. 

The arguments of Paul are sometimes based on an extreme 
Jewish theory of literal infallibility ; e.g., in Galatians iii. 15, 16, he 
reasons as if the very letters were divinely inspired, and super- 
humanly preserved : " not to seeds . . . bat ... to thy 
seed," etc. From this Mr. Lee * has concluded that in such instances 
a special care or superintendence over the writers of the Scriptures 
was exercised in some way by the Spirit, even in the employment 
of the language used; that it was, in short, specially adequate to the 
conception down to the nicest distinction as of a singular noun, 
when without such superintendence a singular or a plural might 
have been used indiscriminately. But this writer must have over- 
looked the fact that in the epistle to the Romans iv. 16-18, the 
same apostle explains the same phrase in a different manner ; and 
he must have forgotten the fortunes of the old Jewish writings, 
of their re-editions and translations, necessitating a superinten- 

* " The Inspiration of Holy Scripture, its Nature and Proof/' 


dence by the Spirit which did not end with the original composers, 
who, without much mechanical superintendence, might be left to 
give adequate expression to their spiritual conceptions. If we are 
to found our views on those of the apostles, and especially on their 
practice as governed by their theoretical opinions, we must ignore 
all critical inquiry and textual comparison ; for we know that their 
manner of citing the Old Testament was eminently uncritical, as 
a few additional examples will show. In the epistle to the 
Hebrews, chap, x., v. 5, we have a citation which ought to teach us 
how little reliance we can place on mere citation, as a proof of the 
infallibility of the words, far less of the letters, and how slightly 
confident we can be that a plural was Divinely intended in one case, 
and a singular form in another. The quotation in this passage is not 
from the original Hebrew as we now have it, perhaps very few cita- 
tions in the New Testament are from the original Hebrew, but, like 
the one formerly mentioned, from the Septuagint : " Sacrifice and offer- 
ing Thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared Me." The 
last clause is by no means the rendering of *? £^7? ^!3?N in Psalm 
xl. 7. In Matthew ii. 5 we have a sense, exactly the reverse of 
what is intended by the original writer given to a passage in Micah 
v. 1. It is perfectly true that little depends on these passages, al- 
though some would appear to stake Christianity on a nominal form 
or a prepositional phrase. But the question at present before us, is 
the view that the New Testament writers held regarding the record 
of revelation, and their method of using their Scriptures in quotation 
and otherwise, and to understand this, one passage is as good as 
another. In the same epistle* the author founds an argument upon 
a verbal expression in Haggai ii. 6, but on the^ Septuagint version 


not the Hebrew text, which could not have supplied him with the 
verbal premiss. The Septuagint renders #T» Dj?D /VTO DJf m 
Haggai by «•* cwraf , which, if it had been in the proper equivalent, 
"yet a little, a while," would have spoiled the basis of the writer's 
argument.f In Matthew viii. 17 we have a different meaning given 
to Isaiah liii. 4, from that given to it in I Peter ii. 24. In the first 
New Testament passage, the reference of the prophet's statement 
about the u servant's" bearing sickness and wounds, is limited to 
the sufferings which Christ endured in the healing of men's bodily 

• Heb. xii. 26, 27. 

t The Hew Testament writers have contributed not a little to establish the 
well-known practice of textual exposition. 

L 2 


diseases, as when we read that " there went virtue out of Him and 
healed them all." In Peter's letter the allusion is to Christ's 
sufferings on the cross for sin. To decide what the prophet really 
intended by his expression, would be to raise the whole question of 
Old Testament and especially of prophetic interpretation, but with- 
out doing this we can point out the kind of exposition that satisfied 
the apostles, and the very feeble light which their method affords us, 
in guiding us to what we may call a rational theory on the nature 
of the Old Testament record. 

In forming an opinion of the character of the New Testament 
writings, we are left even more to independent inquiry, and can 
refer less to authoritative apostolic statement than we have done 
above. This is to be expected, if the canon of the New had a 
growth, and history resembling that of the Old Testament. 
Although the later canon bears to be a fuller development of 
revealed truth, it does not make such direct declarations regarding 
the nature of its source, as the older writings. This is perhaps 
natural, if perfection of spiritual life and thought bring with them 
them greater facility in their exercise. There are numerous in- 
stances in the New Testament where the Spirit was promised to 
Christ's disciples, as, e.g., in John xiv. 16, 17 ; but how far this is to be 
extended is disputed : whether it was intended to embrace both the 
spoken and written words of the apostles — whether it was confined 
to the apostles or was shared by all Christ's immediate disciples — 
or whether, finally, it was a spirit limited to the apostolic age, and 
differing from that promised to all Christians to the end of time. 
In regard to the last question (to take it first) whether the Spirit 
promised was one peculiar to the apostles and their apostolic func- 
tion and age, and not shared in by succeeding believers, we have 
the significant act of Christ recorded in John xx. 22 : " He breathed 
on them, and said, receive ye the Holy Ghost ; " and in the same 
gospel, vii. 39, with reference to the effect of belief on the inner life 
of men, " This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on 
Him should receive." We do not perceive any distinction in the 
influence imparted and promised in these two cases. The 14th, 
15th, and 16th chapters of this gospel are full of what appear to be 
special promises to Christ's disciples, but we find the same promises, 
in Luke xi. 13, e.g., " to them that ask Him." In 1 John ii. 20, 27, 
the spiritual gift which the writer possessed is said to be shared 
by those to whom he wrote : " Ye have an unction from the Holy 
One, and ye know all things." " But the anointing which ye have re- 


ceived of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any one should 
teach you," etc. Again, when John, in the 17th chapter of his gospel, 
represents Christ as praying for that hidden union of His followers 
with Himself, "and the glory which thou gavest Me I have given 
them ; that they may be one as We are one : I in them," etc*, can we 
see any difference between this, and the statement of Paul in his 
letter to the Romans, viii. 8: "Ye are ... in the Spirit, if so be 
that the Spirit of God dwell in you" ? Perhaps the only distinction 
that can be made is not a distinction of spirit, but diversities of 
gift through the same Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 4). 

We are now in a better position to answer the questions regard- 
ing the extent of the gift of the Spirit in the apostolic age, and the 
sphere of its manifestation at that time. It is perfectly plain, on 
the face of the record itself, that the special promises of the Spirit, 
bo far as there is any speciality in them, are for speaking and not 
for writing ; as, e.g., in Matthew x. 19, 20, and the parallel passages 
in Mark xiii. 11 ; Luke xii. 11, 12 ; and also in Luke xxi. 12-19. 
We do not meet with the same definiteness in describing the action 
of the Spirit within the sphere of a written record. On this the 
silence of the books themselves is almost unbroken. Paul in 
1 Cor. vii. 40 " thinks " he has the Spirit of God, but not as if his 
written words were of greater importance than those lessons which 
the Thessalonians had themselves learned by the same Spirit touch- 
ing brotherly love (1 Thess. iv. 9).* Nor is this indwelling Spirit, 
which, he humbly conceived, supported his judgment in writing to 
the Corinthians, apparently different in kind from the universal test 
of the true Christian : " we know that He abideth in us by the Spirit 
which He hath given us " (1 John iii. 24). We must remember 
that the chief command given to the apostles was to preach — that 
the establishment of the new kingdom depended mainly on this 
form of activity — that the promise of the Spirit had thus, natu- 
rally, in the first instance, reference to a spoken, and secondarily 
only to a written word. That the speaking was supplemented by 
writing, does not argue any superiority in the one over the other ; 
for, in any case, whatever the influence was which men mean by 
inspiration, it would be an influence affecting not the words written, 
but must have been one first of all affecting the spirit of the men 
who wrote ; and if the influence was thus internal, as a matter of 

* " As touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you, for ye your- 
selves are taught of Ood to love one another." 


course, it would be a concomitant of the various forms by which 
the new life was manifested, whether these were acting, speaking, 
writing, or thinking. It has been remarked by one who has 
brought out, in a striking manner, the human elements in the Bible, 
in alluding to the supposed superiority of the writings to the men 
who wrote them, " that the apostles when they taught," that is, 
taught by writing, " were free from that bias and those personal 
infirmities which sometimes displayed themselves in their personal 
acts and general life ;" and Peter, whose life furnishes several 
examples of deflection from the course of what we would expect 
from a man who was under the influence of what is generally 
understood by inspiration, is adduced as an instance of this twofold 
life. We see, it has been properly enough noticed, in Peter's life, a 
declaration of Christ's divinity followed by a denial of Him ; the 
announcement of the admission of the Gentiles into the new cove- 
nant, followed by doubt on the same subject, requiring a vision from 
heaven to dispel it. Again at the Councils of Jerusalem and 
Antiooh, the same wavering and inconsistency are shown, which call 
forth the strong expression from Paul in his letter to the Qalatians, 
" when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, be- 
cause he was to be blamed ;" and Paul says in the same epistle, 
including in his remark both Peter and Barnabas, " when I saw 
that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel," 
etc. All this is plain historical fact, and must be taken in con- 
nection with John's statement, " and He breathed on them, and said, 
receive ye the Holy Ghost ; " and also with that recorded by Luke 
in his gospel, " Behold I send the promise of My Father upon you : 
but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with 
power from on high." Nor must we forget to take along with these 
statements, the recorded descent of this " power " on the day of 
Pentecost, and its effect upon this very Apostle Peter, and his own 
spiritual perception of it as the fulfilment of that which was spoken 
by Joel. Taking these statements and promises, in connection with 
the work for which the promises were made, and the first fulfilment 
of these promises while this work was going on, does it not seem 
more true to fact, to conclude that, if we had expected perfection in 
uny of the actions of the apostles, it would have been precisely 
here, where Peter is said to have so signally failed, viz., in the 
practical carrying out of the establishment of Christ's kingdom ? 
If a higher degree of spiritual direction was promised to the apostles 
in any line of activity more than in another, — and we do not say 


there was, — this would appear, both from the statements and also 
from the special work of the apostles, to have been in the proclama- 
tion of the gospel, which Paul himself here and there discriminates, 
particularly from his letter- writing ; e.g., in Romans xvi. 25 : "Now 
to him that is of power to establish yon according to my gospel, 
and the preaching of Jeans Christ, according to the revelation 
of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, bnt 
now is made manifest," etc. ; see also 2 Tim. ii. 8. And as has 
been already remarked, if it were an argument from what was 
most likely to advance the spiritual kingdom whose foundations 
were just laid, we can conceive that it might be more readily 
advanced by men perfectly directed in action, than by men per- 
fectly directed in writing, — a perfection which, however, was not 
granted. At all events it is too much to say with the writer to 
whom we have referred, when contrasting the apostles' general 
activity with their letter- writing activity, and especially with reference 
to Peter, that " when he teaches there is no bias ; when the Spirit uses 
him there is no human wrangling, discord, or infirmity ; he speaks 
in hnman tones, bnt not swayed by human sins. 1 ' We had always 
thought that a man's actions, if he is a man of any worth* are at 
least not inferior to his words in teaching power; the highest 
Teacher, unless we are much mistaken in our conception of Him, has 
taught more by His life than by His speech, and with power and 
purity by both. Without Christ's words we might almost construct 
His Sermon on the Mount from the record of His deeds ; but without 
the history of His life and death, we could not recreate His wondrous 
personality from His sayings. So great is the difference between 
mere precept and example. 

We are fully alive to the difficulty there is, in attempting to 
state the distinction that separates the writings which men esteem 
Divine, from other writings; but for this purpose it is surely 
incorrect to lay down at the outset, a distinction between the 
different spheres of activity of those who were their authors. 
This would resolve itself into a fitful and temporary possession 
of some special grace, while the most noticeable feature of the 
new Testament records is, what we may call, the constancy and 
steadiness of their spiritual enlightenment. We find no indications 
in any of the writings that the writers, in beginning that kind of 
work, were aided or impeded in any unusual manner. There may, no 
doubt, be a certain inequality in any given book containing original 
spiritual truth, as there may be in other books, and yet the influence 


under which the authors penned their work might not be changeable 
and fluctuating — now infused into them and now withdrawn, in any 
other sense than the spiritual influence which permeated their whole 
inner life and sustained its entire activity might vary, as we find 
all influences do with us. Bleek, in the " Studien und Kritiken," 
for 1853, has stated this position admirably, when he remarks : 
"I cannot think that the Apostle Paul, for example, when he 
wrote to the Galatians, was especially differently influenced and 
inspired by the Spirit, than when he preached the gospel to 
them orally ; nor that he was differently and more highly 
inspired in writing his letters to the Philippians, to Philemon, 
etc, than when he delivered those addresses recorded for us in 
the Acts, and others not recorded, to the heathen, Jews," etc. 
Nor is Bleek's conclusion a mere quibble, when he says that, if 
inspiration in the writing of the New Testament were to be con- 
sidered in itself a higher manifestation, than that which we see in 
the oral teaching of the apostles of our Lord, " then would a higher 
degree of inspiration be attributable to Luke, in the composition of 
the apostolic history than to the apostles Peter and Paul in their 
speeches communicated in his work." I should appear to make 
too much of a mere form of argument did I carry it further, and 
say that on the same principle the evangelists, who give us the 
record of Christ's preaching, must have had for this purpose a 
degree of inspiration higher than Christ, or as high. The same 
would be true in regard to the prophets and the men who, as com- 
pilers, editors, and the like, collected their scattered utterances. 
As we have already said, the writers themselves neither lay claim 
to, nor appear conscious of, any special influence in their writing 
distinct from that which they possessed in their preaching, or 
organising, and general spiritual activity. Nor should it be over- 
looked, that, in the case of the letters of the apostles at least, and 
perhaps, in the case of all the books in the Bible, they were written 
as a substitute for oral proclamation, as Paul hints to the Romans 
in chap. i. of that epistle, when he says, " For I long to see 
you that I may impart some spiritual gift ; ... as much as in 
me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Borne 
also." Their whole activity as apostles was so inter-related that we 
cannot say, " Here the man was left to himself, and there the Spirit 
employs him as a man, but in such a manner that the human 
infirmity displayed in the former case drops from him." We know 
that Paul's infirmity of speech remained with him, and we see 


without surprise that impurity of style and a certain " clumsiness 
of expression " clings to many of the New Testament writers. Most 
intelligent readers of their Bible have been struck with Paul's 
mode of arguing; but I scarcely can imagine any one left to 
himself explaining it as Mr. Lee does in the book I have mentioned, 
when he remarks on the necessity of confuting gainsayers having 
forced Paul to prosecute argument, "how abrupt the transitions, 
the connections how intricate, how much conveyed by assumption 
which Scripture can only make without any violation of canons 
of reasoning ! For, with it, assertion is argument ; inspiration has 
ever left to reason the filling up of its outlines, the connection of 
its more isolated truths." Mr. Lee surely cannot suppose that Paul's 
method of arguing, as a logical method, was changed by his con- 
version, or that any man by the change of his spiritual nature, has 
transformations so startling effected in his mental processes ; nor 
can Mr. Lee think that what is a violation of the canons of reason- 
ing in matters of sensible perception, is no suchviolationin discoursing 
on spiritual things, although his statement might be so understood 
and is so understood often enough, and acted upon in dealing 
with the question now under our notice. Neither can Mr. Lee 
suppose that the Roman Christians, or others to whom Paul wrote, 
had all the " isolated truths "of " inspiration " before them, as our 
modern systematic theologians have, which, by the aid of reason, 
they might connect. If reason had this power in the early days of 
Christianity, it must have been in higher esteem then than it is at 
present, and must have had a larger field of exercise in spiritual 
truth when the truths were so disjointed and the outlines so vague 
and ill defined. 

Such views as these, however, proceed from a mistaken attitude 
towards Scripture. As we never think of looking there for perfec- 
tion of Greek style, so we need not look for any other perfection 
incompatible with the authors and their antecedents. Throughout 
the Bible, in the Old Testament as well as the New, there is plain 
everywhere the most distinct individuality. All criticism of it that 
is worth anything proceeds on this conception of its origin. We 
determine the probability or not of authorship by marks of style in 
composition, as well as by the point of view from which the author 
regards spiritual truth, and the historical setting of the truths. 
The influence that pervades the Biblical authors is one that uses 
their natural powers and does not pervert them, so that we may 
have the elegance and beauty and sweep of the author of the letter 



to the Hebrews, in the same collection with the less enticing words 
and harsher forms of Paul. 

We have hitherto been speaking of the written words of 
men who are acknowledged generally to have received some 
special gift of the Spirit, by whatever name we are to call it, and 
we have been trying to show that this gift was not specially granted 
for the purpose of a written record ; but every one knows that the 
productions of apostles comprise a very small portion of the Bible 
literature. The bnlk of this literature, as a literature, is the work 
of men unknown. We have shown this to be the ease with many 
of the written portions of the Old Testament prophets and poets, 
and it is undeniably so with the largest portion of the historical 
books of the Jews. The names of the writers of the New Testament 
histories, however, as is to be expected from the time in which they 
were written, have come down to us with more certainty than those 
of the Old. The more extended use of writing, and the desire to 
preserve the memories of those who had been instrumental in collect- 
ing the scattered traditions of the acts of Christ and His apostles, 
added to the foot, no doubt lamented by pious men, that the names 
of the authors of many of the older sacred books had been lost, 
would make the early Christians more tenacious of their traditions. 
But notwithstanding all this, there are doubts regarding some of 
the gospel authors. With the exception, probably, of the fourth* it 
is very certain that none of the gospels were the work of apostles, 
and beyond all doubt, with perhaps the same exception, that none 
of them, as we now have them, are original, any more than the 
early historical collections in the Old Testament have come to us in 
their earliest forms. They are the results of various literary effort 
on the part of men imbued with the Spirit which these histories 
embody. PerhapB no books, unless it be some of the poetical books 
of the Old Testament, and the Apocalypse of the New, reckoned by 
some in the same category, have presented difficulties so great to 
the minds of candid investigators of the Scripture records, as the 
historical books. On the one hand, it is maintained that it cannot, 
with any reason, be held that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors 
of these books, whether in the Old Testament or the New, in the 

* I say "with the exception, probably, of the fourth 1 ' gospel, because it is 
obviously beyond the plan of my work to enter into the details of biblical 
criticism. Nor can it serve any purpose to raise, in a parenthesis, a question so 
wide as the* authorship of the fourth gospel. 


sense in which the proclaimers of the new Divine truths were in- 
spired since there was no reasonable necessity for such extra human 
aid, seeing that they had everything that was needful for the com- 
position of these books either from oral report, written accounts, 
or personal knowledge. On the other hand, it is as strongly asserted 
that inspiration is an actual energy of the Holy Spirit, by which all 
have been guided who have proclaimed God's will, whether by direct 
revelation or by written history. Thus revelation of spiritual law 
and Divine truths as well as facts of history were recorded under 
the same influence ; thus Job's speeches and those of his friends, 
as well as the direct utterances of God, have the same supernatural 
source. Looking chiefly at the New Testament historians, we are 
aware in reading their books of conscious, personal, mental activity 
in the authors. We have the express statement of some of the 
writers, and the internal evidence of all, that they resolutely chose 
materials, much in the same way as any other narrator, in accordance 
with some special purpose which they had set themselves to accom- 
plish. Luke, in the introduction to his gospel, expressly mentions 
the design of his work, the individual for whom he writes, and the 
sources of his information. The same historian in the beginning 
of a second narrative alludes to his former treatise, as any author 
would refer to a first volume in a second, and continues this later 
history as a supplement to and continuation of the previous work. 
John also in the conclusion of his gospel (xx. 30, 31) mentions 
the end he had in view when he compiled his gospel, and no one 
can doubt that he was determined in his choice of those things 
which he recorded, out of the many "which are not written in this 
book," by the plan of his work. In no collection of narratives 
could we find on this point a declaration more straightforward than 
that of Luke's : " Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set 
forth in order, ... it seemed good to me also ... to write 
unto thee in order." This is really the manner in which all literature 
grows, and we have no reason to conclude that sacred literature 
assumed its present shape in a way essentially different. Histories 
and sagas of northern and eastern people floated from lip to lip, 
were recorded in broken fragments by many, until ultimately some 
one thought it good "to set them forth in order" more fully. Any 
ordinary careful perusal of the gospels in relation to each other 
will result in showing a common basis of literary materials, here and 
there varying in fulness, and consequently leading to more extended 
statement on some points by the author of one gospel than by that 


of, another, and sometimes to a different arrangement.* We ought 
to look for modifications in the narratives, which is only another way 
of saying that we should expect freedom in the authors in the selec- 
tion of their materials, and in their manner of grouping them, as well 
as harmonies, as they are commonly called, in their stories. In no 
other way shall we get quit of that forced and non-natural mode of 
reconciling of apparent and actual discrepancies in the historical 
books, which had its origin in an artificial conception of the nature 
of these compositions. We do not possess those partially arranged 
materials of which Luke, for example, made use in his larger work 
for Theophilus ; but if we did possess them, we should almost cer- 
tainly see that many things related in them were curtailed by 
him, while others were omitted altogether, or received a new set- 
ting. In this way incidents treated of in a certain manner by one 
evangelist, would be differently related by another, and occurrences 
not mentioned by any previous Grund-record, as the Germans 
would say, might come to the knowledge of one evangelist and 
not to that of another, through the communication of an observer 
or otherwise. All the histories have marks that point to some such 
mode of construction. These marks in the writings are noticed with 
no intention of lessening their authority, or of throwing doubts on 
their genuineness. We think that in this way their authority is 
rendered greater and their genuineness indubitable ; while we are 
able to see that, whatever influence was at work in the composition 
of these books, it was an influence not incompatible with the fullest 
conscious exercise of their mental powers of their various authors — an 
influence very different to that which, under the name of inspiration, 
is commonly associated with the literary results of the numerous 
contributors to the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, 
and which if it did not actually dictate the form and contents of 
each book, whether it be history or letter, through a human instru- 
ment, at least determined the form and limited the activity of the 
authors in some inexplicable manner. 

* The prominence given in Luke to the extra-Jewish aspect of Christianity 
has been often noticed. The evidence of this is cumulative : see ill. 23 ft ; iv. 25, 
27 ; x. 1 ff ; xvii. 11-19, etc. ; but the note of all these is in the parable of the Good 
Samaritan recorded by Luke alone. It would not be saying too much to affirm 
that the gospels display in their emphasis of particular modes of thinking, as 
well as in the truths and incidents recorded, an individuality of mind as pro- 
nounced as that to be found in any of the epistles. 



" The letter is not the spirit, and the Bible is not religion ; consequently 
objections to the letter, and to the Bible, are not the same as objections to the 
spirit and to religion." 

There are few subjects of any importance that lie under so much 
misconception, as the question concerning the nature of the Scripture 
record, and the mode in which it is to be regarded by Christians. 
Exaggeration in one direction, on the part of some Christian com- 
munities, has been met by an equal exaggeration in an opposite 
direction, on the part of others taking the same name, not to mention 
the opinions of those who confessedly stand outside Christian 
associations altogether. This inquiry has lost for many minds of 
the present day a good deal of any attraction it may ever have pos- 
sessed. The questions involved are perhaps acknowledged to be 
fundamental; but there is usually such an absence of fairness in 
conducting the investigation, and so much loud protestation when 
anything like candour is manifested, that any one desiring peace 
and eager to accomplish some practical good, will scarcely venture 
to thoroughly grapple with the subject, or, having done so, openly to 
declare his convictions.* The position of the Bible in the Christian 
life, which is a branch of our present inquiry, is a question which 
haunts much of the literature of this century, and one that is absent 
from the minds of few really thoughtful religious men. Unexpressed 
sometimes, it is this question which has occasioned not a little of 
that doubt on spiritual matters characteristic of our times, and in a 
more pronounced form it is the same question that has produced 
much of the intolerance of all times. It would be difficult to decide 
whether more mischief has resulted from that reverence of the Bible, 
which indiscriminately adores the Spirit in every letter, or from 
that flippant criticism, which refuses to see it in any part whatever. 

* Inquirers in England even more than in Germany, although the complaint 
comes from Germany, have to lament that they often find, even among liberal 
thinkers on this subject, a certain playing with the views of older times ; they 
" make use of the Church expressions, but unite with them an altogether dif- 
ferent meaning.'* 


It greatly concerns all to have some intelligent apprehension of this 
s abject that will satisfy facts, and therefore be consistent with 

We are very apt to forget that Christians are not alone in possess- 
ing what they call a sacred literature. Tribes in the lowest civilisa- 
tion have also their sacred traditions, and those in higher stages 
have writings held in esteem eqnal to that with which Jews first, and 
Christians following their example, regarded the written record of 
their revelations. There is nothing at all singular in the feeling of 
reverence that gathers round the relics of the past, and enshrines 
them, keeping them apart from too vulgar a gaze, and too minute a 
criticism. Personally, we have all our hallowed objects dignified 
and elevated by time, becoming daily more sanctified as they keep 
receding into the eternal. The saints of the Church are poor 
sinners like ourselves, made glorious in our eyes by the lapse of 
ages. Men of literature have their sacred scriptures, on which no 
critic dare lay ruthless hand. Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakspeare, 
have passed or are passing, with others, into a literary canon. 
Dante, some one says, is becoming more and more revered, and will 
continue to become so in proportion as he is read by fewer men. 
Men of art, painters, sculptors, architects, have their sacred works 
of art, which, on canvas or in stone, are regarded by most with 
uncritical admiration. We need not feel surprised, therefore, when 
we hear of the sacred books of the Indians, the Chinese, the 
Persians, the Egyptians, the Romans, the hallowed lore of the 
Norse, or the holy Scriptures of the Jews and Christians. The 
deeper the feelings, and the higher the interests concerned in a 
literature, the stronger will be the reverence for the vehicle of this 
profounder life of a nation. Men in all times have justified 
Milton's remark, " As good almost kill a man as kill a good book. 
Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he 
who kills a good book kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as 
it were, in the eye. ... It is true no age can restore a life, 
perhaps no great loss ; and revolutions of ages do not recover the 
loss of a rejected truth, for the want of which all nations fare the 
worse." Impressed with thoughts like these, every nation has been 
careful not to " spill that seasoned life of man preserved and stored 
up in books." In the Jewish Scriptures we have all the elements 
that produce this high regard in men's minds: many of their 
writings are of great antiquity, the traditions embodied in these 
books are hoary with age, stretching back into prehistoric times ; 


their contents are concerned with what is dear to every nation : the 
origin and development of national life, the record of its men, its 
institutions, its exploits; above all, these books are full of the religions 
life of the people, and contain the record of God's dealings with 
them, His communications of spiritual truth to their leaders and 
prophets. They are thns, not only a literature, but a national 
history and a Divine revelation as well, gathering round them the 
love of all men for the past, and their admiration for the literary 
expression of life, their feelings of patriotism, and their religious 
veneration. The growth of this mass of feeling must of course have 
been very gradual, and its crystallisation in the religions form a 
work of time. Its first stages would be a feeling of reverence, 
proceeding from personal conviction of the supreme importance of the 
truths in the poetical writings, and in the visions and utterances of 
the prophets — a healthy and noble respect for the spirit of their 
books or traditions, where they found pictures of primitive national 
life in patriarchal days, songs of triumph in the past, moral truths 
and spiritual aspirations, appealing to what was best within their 
souls. This is the kind of respect with which men most highly gifted 
in the Jewish nation, at all times regarded the national literature ; 
but this intelligent regard paid to the spirit, gave place to a blind 
and unintelligent worship of the letter, a process not unlike that 
often witnessed among ourselves, where the reverence of a few, 
based on personal knowledge of the works of certain authors, has 
resolved itself into an ignorant reverence for the books ; and although 
it is not the fashion to read them, it becomes the mode to have them 
on our library shelves, in stately coverings, if it be for no other pur- 
pose than to accumulate dust. This reverence for what is only 
external, although growing out of a rational respect, is generally 
the product of an age little affected by the spirit of what it so blindly 
reveres. There can be little doubt of the fact that the extreme 
feeling of sacredness, extending to the very letters of the Jewish 
Scripture, was contemporaneous with the decay of spiritual life in 
the nation, and the absence of direct revelation. We find that when 
the prophets delivered their Divine messages, they had some difficulty 
in gaining a hearing for themselves. The living voice of God's 
Spirit speaking through these men did not impress their contempo- 
raries so much as some fragmentary echoes of the voice, which in the 
form of historical records had attained the dignity of, what we now 
call, a canonical work. So far from worshipping the words spoken 
or written, where they happened to be inscribed at the first, they did 


not much regard the truth itself which these words conveyed. It 
is always so much easier a thing to " pay tithe of mint, and anise, 
and cnmmin," than to give heed to " the weightier matters of the 
law, judgment, mercy, and faith." 

Externalism is the outcome of a feeble internalism. Men invariably 
draw near with the month in the absence of the heart. With the 
feebleness of spiritual life and its consequent unenlightenment, there 
grew up among the Jews a traditional knowledge, which, while it 
made void many Divine commandments, as at a late time Christ 
Himself says, fostered a confused regard for the husk in which the 
commandments lay. We are all familiar with the protest of the pro- 
phets against a growing spirit of outward regard merely, and the im- 
portance they themselves attached to the spirit of the teaching in the 
law and history. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, equally with Christ 
and Paul, have to stem the tide of outward reverence which carried 
off the popular mind, and to bring it back anew to the heart of spirit- 
ual truth, as the only thing worth caring for by man, and to loving 
veneration and legal obedience to this, as the only thing acceptable to 
God. After the settlement of the Old Testament canon, and during 
the cessation of prophecy, we have a long period favourable to the 
growth of verbal sanctity. The literature thus collected was un- 
doubtedly the best fruit of the Jewish nation on its religious side, 
and chosen as such. It was marked off in this way from other books, as 
peculiarly fitted to nourish and develop the spiritual life in the nation; 
and remaining, as it did for so long a period, without additions by 
living men, and the modifications which such continual additions must 
have produced in the national mind regarding the character of this 
book, the tendency, which we have already noticed, would be strength- 
ened and confirmed.* The religious schools of the country and the 
officials in the various institutions would feel their position magni- 
fied by the respect entertained for the writings of which they were the 
interpreters and custodians. Next to the dignity of proclaiming such 
truths would be the honour (to an unspiritual age, at least) of pre- 
serving documents whose every word was held to be Divinely given. 
There are few things more noticeable in the record of Christ's life than 
the prevailing opinion He everywhere encounters regarding the ex- 
ternal sanctity of the Old Testament, the final result of which was, 
that intelligent dealing with Scripture had given place, in many cases, 
to a bondage to the mere letter. The old Scriptures were to the 

* Minor additions hero and there might, and very likely were, made, but not 
to the extent of affecting what has been said in the text. 




apostles even, as we have seen, documents of great authority, although 
they are not so often called " sacred " by them as some imagine. 
In two places only do they receive such a description, Romans i. 2, 
and 2 Timothy iii. 15. The teaching of Jesus had, in all likelihood, 
considerably tempered their opinions on this subject. There can be 
no doubt, however, that) although by no means to the exclusion of 
other influences, the prevailing Christian view of the Scripture record 
has been very powerfully affected by the statements of the apostles; 
but those who are thus influenced forget the position of the New 
Testament writers in regard to this theory, or indeed in regard to 
any theory which has a scientific basis. These writers accepted very 
much the popular theory of their time, modified as has been already 
stated. It is quite evident, from our previous remarks, what their 
views in general of the Old Testament scriptures were; but it is not 
so evident that their views must be ours. We know that in every 
case it is simply impossible for their views and ours to coincide. 
We practically set aside their view of the Old Testament when we 
institute historical inquiries in regard to its origin, etc. ; and in this 
way, the question of how far the example of the apostles, in their 
interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies, for instance, and 
their manner of dealing with its narratives, is to be followed by us, 
remains an open one. If prophecy was inquired into by those who 
spoke the prophecies, in order to know the time of its fulfilment, 
it seems most likely that many other points in the Old Testament 
were only inquired into and not actually known by the apostles and 
their contemporaries. The march of time and the growing spiritual 
life of mankind must work out these $ad other problems more fully 
for themselves. If we are to depend on the New Testament writers 
for our views of the Scriptures as a whole, what, it may be asked, 
is the light they give us on the nature of the record with which 
they had personally most concern? like the men of an older 
time, they do not strive to impress us with the idea of any extra- 
ordinary sanctity attaching to their own writings. They leave us 
to gather this from their thoughts. There are only two places in 
the New Testament where any of its own writings are referred to as 
having attained anything like authoritative value : 1 Timothy v. 18, 
and 2 Peter iii. 15. But even these passages do not characterise the 
writings to which they refer in any unusual manner. In the first 
passage any argument of this kind could only be drawn from the fact, 
that a quotation from the Old Testament is joined to one from tho 
New, and both under the general designation, "the Scripture saith." 



Bat it turns out that the exact quotation cannot be found in the New 
Testament, although the sentiment it expresses is found in Matthew 
x. 10. It has, moreover, been well remarked that we need not neces- 
sarily join the expression "the Scripture saith " to the second part of 
the sentence, which the author might add to the first part, as being an 
expansion of the same thought — a sort of sententious statement bear- 
ing the same sense. The second authority referred to above turns 
out to be very doubtful; this same passage forming with other evi- 
dences, such as that resulting from a comparison of this epistle with 
the first Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, sufiicient proof 
to many biblical critics that it was written later than the apostolic 
age, when the canon of the New Testament had been closed. But 
if this were not so, the writings of Paul are by the author of the 
second Epistle of Peter only said to be " according to the wisdom 
given unto him," — a description that might safely apply to any 
writer, either in or out of the canon. We are almost ashamed at this 
time of day to write a chapter like this, implying as it does, a belief 
among the majority of Christians, which seems so plainly at one 
with the most superstitious that ever possessed an uncultured mind. 
But although somewhat modified, the notion is still prevalent that 
there is an infallibility in the statements of the Bible, not only when 
they concern subjects appropriate to spiritual revelation, but also 
when they evidently have reference to matters of science and general 
knowledge and the current beliefs of the times in which the books 
were written down even, as has been already noticed in the work 
of a writer of the present day, to the smallest minutiae of the Ian* 
guage. This slavish bondage to the letter, that will contend for a 
Divine gift, directly communicated, for purposes so disproportioned 
to the supposed influence, is sufficiently convicted of unreasonable- 
ness by a canon well known and, in the ordinary affairs of life, uni* 
versally adhered to, that we need no revelation for what the " senses 
can themselves perceive" — that we are not to believe sense ex* 
perience simply because corroborated by a revelation. This view of 
Scripture is of old standing and long growth, having in reality 
its root in Judaism. The canon of the Old Testament suggested 
the canon of the New ; and the feelings and belief that centred 
round the one, were in process of time carried over to the other.* 

* There is reason to believe that the writers of the gospel narratives, more 
especially of the synoptic gospels, have directly fostered this belief by their 
mode of reference to the Old Testament and their search for references to inci- 
dents in Christ's life. 


One might have expected that the new spirit of life in Christ, and 
the principles of the Christian religion would at least have saved the 
record of that life and religion from this remnant of superstition, 
that clung to the old dispensation. Men have not been satisfied 
with forming their views on this point from mots of Scripture 
alone, but have more frequently done so from an arbitrary opinion 
of what these facts should have been. They have supposed only 
one certain mode of recording these Divine truths and experiences 
to be possible in order to effect the end designed by God, instead 
of concluding the end from the method actually adopted; they 
have introduced final causes into their explanations, and anchored 
upon the " shore " from which Bacon warns physical and metaphy- 
sical philosophers. Pfaff, perhaps, as moderately as any one, ex- 
presses the conception of Biblical authorship from the point of view 
we have just now stated, when he speaks of them receiving " a re- 
velatio in ignotU; a directio et gubernatio in cognitis;" and a "_per- 
missio in suit ipsorum notionibus admiscendis" If we ask the real 
basis for theories such as this, we find that they rest generally on 
the supposition that, unless the writers were thus or thus controlled 
and directed, these books would not be canonical. It was only, 
however, after a canon was formed that an extreme view of this 
kind was possible. The notion of infallibility is a natural result of 
the feeling of sanctity, but both are misapplied when mdiscrimin- 
ately referred to everything within the Scriptures. 

There are two things necessary to be borne in mind in this 
connection. In the first place, revelation being historical, and a 
large portion of the record having the very form of history, differing 
from other histories only in the feet that it has a Divine element 
in it, the writers who record their perceptions of this, necessarily 
blend the human with the Divine. In other words, the history and 
nationality of the Jews in the first instance, and of Christianity 
afterwards, were not merely the history and nationality of a people 
with simple national and international relations, but, in addition to 
this, the history of God's people ; and thus the historical and general 
literature of this people is a Divine history and a Divine literature, 
and is, besides, human also, inasmuch as it is historical and a literature. 
I fail to see that we can exempt it from all the limitations implied 
in these facts, and Which we shall more clearly perceive as we pro- 
ceed. In the second place, while acknowledging an undoubtedly 
Divine manifestation and perception in prophecy, for example, we 
are not thereby called upon to deny the ability of a prophet or 

m 2 


spiritual teacher, to represent this manifestation unless the words, or 
even the forms of thought, were dictated to them. Such a denial, as 
John Smith of Cambridge well says, would be like questioning 
whether the prophets could speak sense like wise men, and tell 
their own thoughts properly or not. And the same remark will 
apply to the record as a whole. There are in the various parts of 
the Old and New Testaments accounts of revelations, to perceive 
which originally, as even now vitally to know them, presupposed 
spirits prepared for the reception of this sphere of truth — to record 
which, however, required only, that those who received the revela- 
tions, and represented them to their own spirits, could tell the 
impressions which the spiritual manifestations produced on their 
inner life. It is only by distinctions like these that we can rise 
above the cruder conception of our Bible, which, while rightly in- 
sisting on making it the norm of our spiritual life, endeavours to 
attain this object by making it the rule in all other forms of our 
mental activity. By a more rational idea of the record, in which we 
shall see its true sanctity lies inviolate, we can get rid of all those 
endless disputes turning on trifles, regarding the doctrine of in- 
spiration of the Divine word, as distinguished from the individual 
words— the Wort x as distinguished from the Worter, as the Germans 

There is no middle ground between the acceptance of what is 
called a verbal inspiration, and one that consists in a spiritual en- 
lightenment, with a capacity for faithfully representing the truths 
thereby perceived.* To ask if the latter view guarantees freedom 
from error, which is in vain attempted to be guaranteed by those who 
seek most strictly to insure it through a superintendence over matters 
the most insignificant and at the same time irrelevant to revealed 
truth, is perhaps a needless question, but we may answer, yes. For 
what does this freedom from error mean, when we examine it more 
closely P Is it not simply what we have stated, that the men to 
whom the spiritual revelations were made, and who experienced in 
their awakened spiritual consciousness the fresh impulse of the new 
life that moved them, and manifested itself in and through them, 
were capable of fully and faithfully representing these revelations 
and the efflux of this Divine life to others, who were in turn able 

• Noldoke's alternative is similar to this. He says there are two standpoints 
on this question, "that of goience, and belief in ecclesiastical tradition." 
" Every compromise between them/ 1 he adds, "is mischievous." 


to record these utterances. If this is inspiration, then we can say 
that these men were inspired, and that the product of their pens is 
the result of inspiration. But their special relation to us and their 
prime importance is the immediateness of that revelation in their 
inner life, and in the times in which they lived. To them in vary- 
ing measure was given to see and handle the Word of life, and from 
their position and the reflection they were enabled to give of the 
manifestation of the Divine, arises their supreme excellence. If we 
ascribe what we call absolute infallibility to these reflectors of the 
Divine revelation in history, let us take heed lest we attribute more 
to them than they themselves claim, or than we from facts are 
warranted in doing. On such important points as these we may 
with all safety conclude with Smith, whom I have already quoted, 
that " God did not make use of idiots or fools to make known His 
will." Yet we need not, therefore, seek to exalt them above that 
degree of humanity, which they are constant in holding up to us. 
We must remember what Paul says to the Corinthians, that he was 
with them " in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." 
We might infer from the various writings of the authors in both 
Testaments, that they were able to record the things made known to 
them, and the thoughts arising out of the new life, as truly as others 
can depict their experiences and thoughts on natural subjects. And 
what else do we require P Freedom from error does not consist in 
suoh surveillance over all the faculties of Biblical authors as would 
prevent memory from stumbling ever so slightly, or inadvertences 
occurring, as in Matthew xiii. 35, or in Paul's historical reference in 
1 Corinthians x. 8, or a wrong translation of Psalm lxviii. 18 by him 
in his letter to the Ephesians (iv. 8) ; or in obviating variations in 
the quotations of the old Scripture, such as Matthew quoting now 
from the Hebrew version, and in other places from the Septuagint, 
showing an evident indifference in this writer to what was merely a 
literal accuracy of rendering. Neither does it consist in strict 
ordering of events, for in Luke we have a very defective chronolo- 
gical arrangement. And if liberties were taken by Biblical writers 
in making free translations of their quotations from the old Hebrew 
scriptures, are we to imagine that any less freedom was claimed 
by them in rendering Christ's sermons from the native Aramaean 
into the canonical Greek record? Even in matters apparently 
more significant, I cannot see that the New Testament writers were 
exempt from error, or that essential correctness required this; e.g., 
I cannot see that they had clear and definite rules of prophetical 


interpretation, or that they were infallibly supplied with exegetioal 
and critical principles, which is so far from being the case, that these 
principles, so important to us, never appear to occur to them. It 
would be a sorry thing, indeed, did Christianity depend on points so 
absolutely immaterial as these. What conception of truth can any 
man have who feels the foundation going when a doubt in chrono- 
logy or a question on antiquities is started ? A system that de- 
pends on threads so slight is not worthy the attention of men. It 
is a revolt from views such as these that has led so many minds to 
devote their- time to the interpretation of the sensible facts of life 
where " the active energies are not paralysed by the possibilities of 
enfeebling doubt, nor the reason drawn down and stultified by ap- 
prehension lest its method should discredit a document, or it 
inferences clash with a dogma, or its light flash unseasonably on a 
mystery." It is the maintenance in the Christian community of 
such opinions, that has made Christian life so sickly, and Christian 
manhood so timid, and professional Christian morals, as for instance, 
in the ethics of " subscription," so much questioned by laymen. To 
stake fundamental principles on a letter, or a name, or a mode of 
argument, or a body of philosophy, with which they may have been 
temporarily wedded, would seem the height of absurdity, were it not 
so common. Because questions so elementary are never fairly meed 
and boldly decided, we find ourselves, in the nineteenth century of 
the Christian era, as very babes in the Christian life. All that is 
really most important in Christian truth stands postponed, because 
we keep dallying in the vestibule regarding mere trifles. We are so 
fond of the letters forsooth, that we have not room in our souls for 
the spirit and the life. We admire our amulet so much that we 
dread examining its nature. Such a feeling of reverence has 
centred upon the Bible as quite kills, not only other kinds of feeling 
which it might naturally awaken, but all mental activity in relation 
to it. Emerson speaks strongly, but we think not without some 
occasion, when he exclaims, " See what strong intellects dare not yet 
hear God Himself, unless He speak in the phraseology of I know 
not what David or Jeremiah or Paul. We shall not always set so 
great price on a few texts or a few lines. We are like children who 
repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, . . . pain- 
fully recollecting the exact words they spoke ;" and so on. 

What is really sacred to us in the Bible writers is that which 
lies beneath all this — the fact that they were able to perceive and 
Accurately represent what was essentially a spiritual experience, 



whether as special revelation or personal life. All that we need 
concern ourselves about in their representation is the idea of the 
spiritual manifestation revealed to them. Do they give ns a correct 
acoonnt of this? Have we before ns the fair records of that 
spiritual kingdom which Christ came to set np in men's hearts, 
and which His immediate followers had received into theirs P 
To answer this we require to know the nature of that which the 
writers and speakers had to represent, and this we have found to 
be a manifestation of the spiritual. We need also to know what the 
reception of such a manifestation supposed; and we saw this to 
rest npon a spirit and life corresponding to that sphere of truth 
which was made known. We have no more reason to doubt the 
truth of their spiritual representation, than we have to donbt the 
truth of a kosmical one proceeding on its proper experience. A 
great deal is said about the several modes of representation given 
to ns in the Scriptures, and the varying degrees of spiritual truth 
made known through the different writers, such, e.g., as the different 
gospel writers in the New Testament, and also through what is 
called the Pauline and Petrine development. This may be the 
result of the many-sided character of Him who was the centre of 
this spiritual portraiture. That one man's individuality conld have 
had impressed on it clearly and perfectly the full image of the Divine 
manifestation, is a phenomenon, the counterpart of which we do not 
expect to meet with in the natural world. How many individual 
natural experiences go to make up the sum of experience ? But we 
find in the New Testament and other scriptures, the internal reception, 
and inner assimilation of several personalities tending to produce a 
perfect, and more or less harmonised representation ; perfect, however, 
not in its vehicle but in its spiritual import. For one man perfectly 
to have nnfolded the Divine would have required a mind and spirit 
equally Divine — not to speak of what we should have required before 
such a representation conld have benefited ns at all. But it is an ele- 
ment in this revelation to man, as it must be in everything that is to 
be of any use to him, that it is not a revelation out of all relation to 
him, but in closest and most intimate relation to humanity, the ideal 
form, of which is Christ, and its actual form the record by those to 
whose inner consciousness the ideal was manifested, and whose repre- 
sentation is for ns the rule and guide in our spiritual life. The 
superiority of the Old and New Testaments over all other accounts 
of spiritual experience, lies very much in the fact of their personality. 
The very first things that strike ns are the naturalness and individ- 


uality, the vivid human and historic colouring -which each part 
exhibits. This is that in which they agree with all literature, and 
that also which distinguishes them from other sacred religious books. 
It is not the absolute Divine — this we do not and, perhaps, never 
can know. It has no meaning for us. We know only the relations 
of things. What is called the absolute is only a figment of philo- 
sophy ; all is relative, just as all is concrete. Everything is related 
to everything else ; and so in the Bible we have the Divine person- 
ality in relation not merely to the human in general, but in relation 
to individual humanity. The poetry is at all times the genuine 
outbursts of the soul that poured forth its experienceain-this chosen 
form, and no mechanical utterance like pagan oracular aphorisms. 
Self consciousness characterises all these Divine songs; national 
or personal history and national or personal feeling speak in all of 
them. They show us the strivings of the human soul, as well as 
the utterances of the Divine. So true is this, that no scholar would 
any more remain ignorant of the political and social atmosphere, 
the natural incidents and private life of David and Isaiah, than of 
the world of Homer, Pindar, Virgil, or Shakspeare, where these can 
be known. Each writer, whether he be seer or psalmist, is true 
to his individuality, while he is giving body to that Divine revela- 
tion vouchsafed to him. Amos, as has been often notioed, never 
aims at the splendour of Isaiah, but is full of that quiet pastoral life 
in which the Spirit of the Lord found him. David in his prophetical 
utterances, and in his songs does not lose sight of those pleasant 
times of early youth, before the noise of the camp, the hurry of 
battle, and the intrigues of the court had disturbed his mind.* 
Ezekiel was not uninfluenced by his captivity, nor were the whole 
people unaffected by the religion and life of their captors. And if 
we find these temporal things informing the thoughts of the seers 
and singers of old, we need not wonder, when we come to the written 
record, to discover like things tinging it, showing personality in 
style, and even rudimentary efforts in science. So marked is this, 
that the progressive character of the thought cannot be more readily 
determined than the variations in the style, exhibiting a certain 
spontaneity in the growth of this literary product. There was indeed 
something besides, as has been noted already at length ; but we have 
more need now a-days to insist on this side of Scripture than on 

* This consideration will servo to discredit his connection with many of the 
pra!ms usually attributed to him with so much confidence. 


the side which has produced the extreme view of an in-breathing 
influence controlling the sacred penmen. When we speak of the 
Holy Spirit thus acting on men in the composition of literary works, 
Buoh as letters, e.g., if these letters are understood to be proclamations 
of Divine truths alone, and not expressions of personal feeling, and 
spiritual experiences, some may not find so much difficulty in enter- 
taining the notion ; but when we examine the letters, and find that 
where they are concerned directly about the revelation given by 
Christ they record these things, as in some cases the result of per- 
sonal observation (1 John i.), and in other cases as acquired through 
written history or tradition ; when, in addition to these matters, we 
discover in such works the personal thought of the author on some 
of the great themes of the Christian religion, in relation to the 
exigencies of the people to whom he writes ; when we find, besides, 
combined with this the soul stragglings of the man himself in his 
own Divine life, his temptations, his hopes, his fears, his joys and 
sorrows, his whole spiritual development; when, in fact, we meet 
everywhere in his work a rich vein of human experience that appeals 
to the human life of his correspondents, — we are compelled to modify 
our theory of the Divine influence, to some form consonant with ail 
this play of human thought and emotion. The psalms of the Old 
Testament are not more thoroughly saturated with this kind of hu- 
man personality than are the epistles of Paul and John, and we have 
already seen how impossible it is to reconcile these Hebrew songs 
with this an extreme idea of external influence. Would we feel the 
spiritual pleasure and profit which, even in spite of intellectual 
theories, we enjoy in the many sided experiences these writings dis- 
play, if they were not the experiences of men of like passions with 
ourselves P What answering chord could be struck in our spiritual 
life by the exulting and triumphant question of Paul, "Who shall sepa- 
rate us from the love of Christ P " if it had not been the welling up of 
Paul's own inner feelings, and the conscious and abiding expression 
of his deep assurance and well-tried confidence in Christ P Since 
there is thus a flow of human experiences in the Scripture literature, 
any theory which we hold concerning the manner of its composition 
must account for these. We put aside altogether the comfort that 
is brought to the hearts of every Christian, by the thought that in 
these records he hears the voices of human souls in all respects like 
his own, now stammering, now clear, each in his own tongue speak- 
ing the wonderful works of God. What we need is a truthful theory, 
whether it prove comfortable to our preconceived notions or the re- 


verse, and whatever be its nature, it must be one that satisfies 
equally every part of Scripture. In this requisite the ordinary 
opinion is defective. It not only compels those who support it to 
resort to very questionable expedients, in the explanation of some 
very natural discrepancies in the details of the record, but it leaves 
unaccounted for, the great contrasts in the component parts of this 
wonderful whole. What has been remarked regarding the common 
conception of the great doctrine of the Atonement, that it takes the 
shape, in most minds, of a drama predetermined in its most minute 
incidents in the Divine counsels and acted out in time, applies to the 
conception of the Scripture revelation. The ordinary notion of a 
revelation and a record, is based on the idea of an inflexible plan 
rigidly worked out. We lose half the meaning and force of a spirit- 
ual revelation, if we forget that it was a natural development in 
man, whose stages of growth are before us. We must leave behind 
the ideas of arbitrariness that have crept into this region of thought, 
and learn to regard the unveiling of the Divine, and the record of it, 
in method at least, as unartificial as the other processes around us. 
From this conception we can see how explicable it is that the writers 
are so diverse, the forms of composition so varied : history, with 
ballad and ode inwoven, alternating with drama, and lyric song, or 
bridal hymn, or more familiar letter. Natural experience has its 
historians, its poets, its biographers, its letter writers ; and why not 
spiritual experience P 

But there are more pronounced contrasts than those of literary 
form in Scripture literature; there are contrasts as great as that 
between the Book of Job, and the Book of Ecclesiastes. In the 
first, the depths of the moral and spiritual nature are sounded by 
the poet, and the most daring sentiments are uttered on the highest 
spiritual truths. In reality the common Jewish religious standpoint 
is defiantly questioned. In the second, speculative language toys 
with the weightiest problems of human life. We see earnestness, 
burning and passionate, an almost intemperate, intolerant, and aban- 
doned self assertion in the magnificent Hebrew drama ; in the Eccle- 
siastes we see by comparison shallowness of thought, and an apparent 
absence of seriousness. That they are both found in the Jewish canon 
is a significant fact, telling us of the human element pervading the 
Divine in Soripture revelation, of its historio and developmental 
nature, of its [susceptibibility to outward impressions, catching the 
spirit of an age, and coming to us coloured by that through which it 
passes. Many people would, if they considered the question more 


fall j, hesitate before ascribing a Divine influence as direct, as is usu- 
ally done in the case of Biblical books, to the writers of either of these 
books. It would not be consistent with those bold declarations in 
Job, whose very boldness coming from the feeling of uprightness in 
the man, has a .certain awful charm about it, when considered in the 
light of a human heart bubbling out its own infinite spiritual an- 
guish, and throwing forth its complaints from an embittered spirit : 
" Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not His fear terrify 
me : then would I speak, and not fear Him." As little would an 
overpowering spiritual influence accord with the religious philoso- 
phical speculations of Ecclesiastes. It is too much to think of dic- 
tation of thought, far less of letters in this latter book. It is the 
outcome of the Spirit of God, working in the spirit of man, in an 
age of doubt and much spiritual darkness — an age that saw weari- 
ness written on all man's efforts and all God's works — that escaped, 
however, with the two great facts of spiritual life, God and con- 
science, — facts on. which the writer of this book falls back from 
weariness of the flesh rather than as the legitimate result of his 
speculations.* These are precious records of revelation, although 
most diverse, and evidently recognised by the men who formed the 
Jewish canon as helpful to the higher life of God's people. The men- 
tion of these two books in the Old Testament recalls to us a feature 
of all the books, and a feature which is more observable perhaps in 
the New Testament than in the old; viz., that every portion is written 
with the purpose of the composers, not for us of later times, but for 
the men of their own time, and for a special circle in that time, and 
under special circumstances, calling forth special aspects of spiritual 
truth. Luke's gospel is even, as we have noticed, addressed to an in- 
dividual. Paul's letters have their origin frequently in some passing 
condition of the Church to which he writes. All the works have on 
the face of them and in the minds of the authors, what we would 
call, a casual origin and an apparently temporary purpose. The 
writers of Christ's history exhibit the same limited view. There is 
no conscious provision in their stories for the future Church and for 
future questions concerning Christianity ; yet may we not say of the 
New Testament writers what they say of the Old Testament authors, 

* "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : Fear God, and keep His 
commandments : for this is the whole duty of man." I am aware that this 
passage is rejected by some as inconsistent with the thought of the original 
writer. But this appears an arbitrary dictum of subjective criticism. 



that they wrote these things for us, and this is that which is Divine 
in them. Not, however, consciously for us. The prophets of old 
did not oonsciously speak for the future, neither did the New Testa- 
ment writers ; for in their time and to their minds, the question of 
how these narratives and letters of theirs arose, never seemed to 
occur. Like all men who have really something to say, they do 
not reason about their mental processes. Perhaps if asked, they 
would have said that these writings were the fruit of experience and 
observation, and thought on such subjects. 

While, however, avoiding one extreme, we must be careful lest we 
fall into the other ; it is so common an error to fall on the other 
side of anything. It is possible to see the false sanctity which 
attaches to the Scriptures, and at the same time to hold fast that 
which must ever make them sacred to those who have tasted the 
life in them that alone makes them Divine. This life is above all 
record of it, as we have said before, and we wish this statement not 
to be forgotten in our concluding remarks on the proper nature 
of this record. 

There are some portions of the literary activity in the Bible which 
are hard to reconcile with the spirit pervading the general collec- 
tion. They are not precisely opposed to it. This could not well 
have happened in a collection of books subjected to the searching 
criticism of spiritual experience which these books underwent; 
but there are portions that at first sight appear remote from the 
special tendency of the whole. A more careful perusal of these will 
lead, however, to the conviction that the whole is welded together 
by an inner spirit, which, with perfect unity throughout, admits of 
the most varied external manifestations. It is the nature of this 
combining spirit that differentiates the authors from all mere 
litterateurs ; it is this that gives their words a spiritual character, 
and a power of perpetual spiritual application. There is in every 
writer and speaker in the collected writings, an organic connection of 
spiritual life. While recognising, as we have fully done, the evident 
signs of human feelings and experiences, no one can overlook the 
other element that pervades every part. This element is that in the 
Bible, describe it as we may, which comes to us from these writers, 
as Paul expresses it in his letter to the Corinthians, "not with enticing 
words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of 
power." " Howbeit," he continues, and we feel it as we read, "we 
speak wisdom among them that are perfect : yet not the wisdom of this 
world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nonght : but we 


speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, 
which God ordained before the world nnto our glory : which none of 
the princes of this world knew. . . . Which things also we speak, 
not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, bat which the Holy 
Ghost teacheth; . . . bnt the natural man receiveth not the 
things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they 
are spiritually discerned." Here we meet with the same thought, 
stated in almost the exact words used by John in recording the 
address of Christ to His followers when about to leave them: 
" I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Com- 
forter, that He may abide with you for ever ; even the Spirit of 
truth ; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, 
neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him : for He dwelleth with yon, 
and shall be in you." It is the Spirit of God permeating and en- 
lightening the authors of the Bible in their manifold activity, that 
gives to their writings the charm, and power, and spiritual influence, 
which has always accompanied them, and which separates them 
from all other literary works as broadly and distinctly, as the rela- 
tions of spiritual truth are separated, both in manner of attainment, 
and in nature, from other truths. How to formulate this peculiarity 
has been a task frequently attempted, and doubtless presented 
itself to the founders of both canons. The objection to all formulae, 
however, is very keenly felt here. They are mostly too rounded to 
embrace all the facts of a varied sphere of existence, especially when 
this sphere is the inner life of man, in relation to what is spiritual. 
Its most distinctive feature, we think, is precisely that which Paul 
Btates, that it contains those teachings of the Spirit of God wbich 
are discerned by the spiritual consciousness of man. It is the best 
and highest teaching on this subject, because among those who have 
contributed to it, this life attained its fullest and truest development. 
We must not, however, confound this excellence with other kinds 
of excellence which the book does not possess ; this is its supreme 
and crowning excellence, and surely needs nothing to enhance it. 
The spirit which all these writers display, is that Spirit which is 
given by God " to them that obey Him,"* but seen in the authors of 
the Bible literature in its most powerful and original, and what, in 
other regions of thought, we would call its most creative form. 
There was a higher manifestation of the Spirit within the community 
in which the Hebrews lived, than elsewhere, and, with occasional 

* Acts x. 32. 


interruptions, the process continued to advance down to Christian 
times. It was the manifestation of that outpouring of which Joel 
speaks, and whose perfect realisation, if we are consistent in our 
reading of [such passages, we are to look for, through a gradually 
extending influence accompanying the development of this spiritual 
kingdom upon the earth ; for, not on this company or on that society, 
not on this section, or on that, of God's children, but " upon all 
flesh " shall the Spirit of God be poured out. 

It is for this reason that the Scriptures remain for us the guide of 
our spiritual life, containing, as they do, the knowledge of God and 
His will. That they are the full record of spiritual truth the Bible 
writers never pretend, they suggest rather the reverse. That they 
caught all the rays of that glorious appearing on their spiritual 
horizon we dare not say, when we reflect on the moral and spiritual 
medium necessary for such a reception. Paul is never weary of 
saying, "I know in part "; "now we see through a glass darkly;" 
evidently feeling, as Bacon says, "a great need for rubbing the 
glass. 11 Paul's prayers are often indirect confessions of the very 
same thing, as when he bends his knees to request that God would 
grant that those to whom he wrote might " know the love of Christ, 
which passeth knowledge." It is no perfect revelation of all that is 
Divine of which we speak; it is rather of a faithful representation, 
by those men in whom the Divine life and consciousness had been 
evolved, of that manifestation of the Divine that was perceived in 
their spiritual nature. The full comprehension even of this might not 
bo given them. We learn from John that they did not understand 
some things until after Christ was risen. But a faithful account of 
spiritual facts, and revealed phenomena, is quite compatible with a par* 
tial insight into them, as we saw in the case of the revelation through 
the prophets. They attached some intelligible meaning to their 
revelations, although they did not in every instance understand the 
full import of their significance. All knowledge of what is around 
us in nature involves an exercise of poetic imagination ; all knowledge 
of what is about us in spirit involves an exercise of faith. Revelation, 
and what is true of this aspect of it is still more true of its record, 
is partial. The record of it on every side must be incomplete* All 
that is material must have defects, as we shall see, or, to put it 
differently, can have various approaches only to perfection. Tho 
ideal is the sum of all existences; We see, for instance, the almcct 
endless aberrations in the forms of crystals from what is typical. 

Christians should learn to look on the Bible as a means to 


awaken in them the life which gave birth to the Bible itself. 
We are ever placing the means above the end, forgetting the prin- 
ciples in the mere history, the substance in the form, the letter in 
the spirit. There must be some meaning still in the promise that 
the Spirit shall take of Christ's and show it unto us : a promise, 
we take it, transcending any mere record, and reaching unto that 
which gives vitality to the record — the personal knowledge and 
minor individual experiences which these narrators have handed 
down to us. There is a sense in which, as a well known essayist 
says, we "recite fables merely of our brother's brother's God," 
and have no intimate communion and face to face intercourse with 
Him for ourselves. We never rise into the spirit of the men who 
have written their experiences, but keep hanging on their syllables, 
mumbling them like charms, forgetting that we may say words 
like them for ourselves if we have the life in the Spirit which they 
had. But we shall never have this near view of spiritual truth in 
any perfection, while false feelings of sanctity about the record fill 
our hearts. We certainly believe, with all Christians, that the 
spiritual teaching in the Scriptures is fitted to embrace all ages, and 
Buit all times and countries ; that its truths are eternal and imperish- 
able, containing as they do the record of the life and utterances of 
Him who spake as never man spake, who is in the bosom of the 
Father — to whom the endless past and interminable future are an 
ever present now, and who perceived that which is inherently per- 
manent in man's spiritual nature. A book, proceeding from the 
Spirit that He gave to those whose lives were hid with His in 
God, is, in spite of whatever incompleteness in narrative, and im- 
perfections in style, one that needs no rewriting— one whose real 
capabilities our times have not gauged, and whose possibilities, wo 
may with safety say, many ages to come will find inexhaustible—a 
record, which after times will feel to be as invaluable for their 
higher and eternal welfare, as many now feel it to be of undying 
and imperishable interest. We fail to realise the time, even in 
imagination, when men shall not need to turn to these words of 
Divine and heavenly wisdom, as to a fountain which is ever welling 
up its Waters of life to satisfy the deeper longings and thirstings of 
their spirits for that truth and righteousness, the desire of which 
is natural to every human soul. It is, thus, that the best use of the 
Scriptures must arise from a true and natural conception of them 
as the Divine, but the Divine under human conditions. This is 
their glory, and not their defect. The Spirit of God speaks to us 


here, as nowhere else ; bat He so speaks, that in our own experience 
we may realise the life and thoughts and spiritual perceptions re- 
corded by men of old. We do not find, in what we call temporal 
things, that kind of ordered completeness and literal exactness 
which we foolishly look for in the Bible. Nature, where God like- 
wise is, does not work after our plans of what we consider perfec- 
tion. We find that out of " fifty seeds she often brings but one to 
bear;" and hence the charges preferred against her by certain 
philosophic thinkers. The sun is not always at high noon and in 
a cloudless sky, nor is the Sun of Righteousness, full as that Sun is 
in Himself of all light and life for spiritual intelligences, unaccom- 
panied, as He shines upon us in this literary setting, by earthly 
vapours, which yet to our poor human vision heighten the grandeur 
and beauty, while they do not absorb His life-giving beams. 

Some who think that the peculiarity of the Scripture record lies 
in its nobility of thought and sentiment, say that the writers of it 
are no more inspired than Milton, Zeno, and Plato. That Newton, 
for example, was inspired as well as Moses, because it was much 
more difficult to write the " Frincipia " than the decalogue. Pass- 
ing over at present the test of difficulty, which by those who hold 
such language is taken as a standard of what is called inspiration, 
and many of the apparent absurdities into which such a test rigidly 
applied would lead us, it may be remarked, that the view that has 
just been mentioned is based on an erroneous notion of the peculiar 
nature of the decalogue, as well as of other parts of Scripture. The 
peculiarity does not consist so much in the difficulty of the subject 
matter, although that is quite serious enough, as any one will see if 
he leaves out of account the element of Divine manifestation ; for 
it is a well known fact that moral and spiritual truths are more 
recondite and later in development than physical. The contrast 
between the present state of astronomical study, for example, and 
of the moral sciences gives one some faint conception of the diffi- 
culties underlying the latter. Keeping this in mind, the difficulty 
of conceiving Scripture truth without a revelation becomes more 
plain. But, given this revelation in the life and history of the 
Jews, and the awakening of the Divine consciousness through that 
history, we may well say that the mere work of authorship of the 
different books, or any part of them, was not more difficult than the 
composition of the " Principia." The comparison in this form is, 
however, not altogether just. It looks like a comparison between 
a narrative of facts and the exposition of a series of principles 


drawn from facts and observations. In reality, it is a comparison 
between the discovery of spiritual and physical truth ; a much more 
hidden matter, and harder to decide, than the mechanical question 
of comparative difficulty in composition. I daresay Newton's 
" Principia " was a simple narrative to him, when the data and 
their relations were perceived by him ; just as the decalogue and 
other scriptures might be recorded by any simple mind, as they, 
perhaps were, after the vision of spiritual truth had appeared to 
some gifted soul. The use of the word inspiration is misleading in 
the present instance, as it not unfrequently happens in other cases, 
because it is a generic word applied to various states of mind. We 
readily think of a poet as moved by peculiar impulses, and swayed 
by some unusual influence in his imaginative flights. Thus, we 
speak of a certain efflatus awaking the song of Dante, and giving 
it depth and grandeur. We say of many others, as, for example, of 
our Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, that they wrote under inspira- 
tion. We speak sometimes of philosophical speculations as being 
the fruit of inspired genius, of orators declaiming like men in- 
spired ; but all this, although a legitimate enough use of the term, 
is a usage somewhat differing from its application in describing 
Biblical writers. The fact is, that the term inspiration variously 
employed in speaking of imagination, speculation, oratory, revela- 
tion, etc., must be discriminated. It has for many minds a mere 
technical meaning, which is reserved wholly for Scripture, while its 
wider use has only a metaphorical signification for the same minds. 
They are correct, so far as they see that Scripture has a character 
different from that of other books in the truths it conveys, but wrong, 
so far as they do not see that all truth is God-inspired. The state- 
ment of the writer of the letter to Timothy (2 Tim. iii. 16), that all 
writing given by inspiration of God is profitable, etc., is not in- 
tended to limit God's action to any kind of writing, but to exhibit 
the profit of all writing that is informed with His Spirit ; a distinc- 
tion which Is worth attending tot It has no doubt an immediate re- 
ference to the " sacred writings " of the previous verse, but does not 
exclude everything else, and much less does it convey the clumsy 
and mechanical conception of a process that admits of no intelligent 
action on the part of the man who is inspired. Singularly enough 
we have retained a better and more rational use of the term in its 
metaphorical applications. No one thinks of the poet or orator as a 
mere instrument, void of the power of selection or intelligent action, 
when, in some moments of peculiar temporary elevation of mind to 



which susceptible temperaments are subject, thoughts and images 
strong, true, and beautiful break in upon the imagination with a 
force and vigour that far surpass earnest and methodical investiga- 
tion. On such occasions men say that they are inspired ; that some 
impulse has stirred their mental powers. There is always implied 
in this language an elevated action of mind, a wrapt manner, an un- 
wonted insight ; not confined, however, to any particular sphere of 
thought, but ranging over every subject that can engage a rational 
intelligence. And work of this kind is always done, not only with 
greater speed and power, but also with greater exactness and truth. 
It is to be observed too, as there has been occasion before for notic- 
ing, that all this takes place in the mind of the men ; we want a 
word to express the literary form which they give to it. The word 
inspired has been here again more correctly employed in its meta- 
phorical than in its more strict and technical sense. We have little 
hesitation in speaking of a man of genius as inspired, but rarely 
think of so designating his writings. The word, in its theological 
sense, is more frequently applied to the writings of the New Testa- 
ment than to the writers, although it has its full meaning only as 
applied to the latter. As descriptive of the writings we can only 
say that they contain this spirit. These different senses of the term 
inspiration require to be borne in mind in considering, what is 
called, the inspiration of the Bible. 

One thing, in the opinion of some, which renders inspiration so 
peculiarly characteristic of the books of Scripture, that they seek to 
designate this collection of writings to the exclusion of all others 
as inspired, is, that, although it contains here and there passages 
which transcend in dignity of thought and diction the sublimest 
passages in any literature, its distinguishing feature as a product 
of inspiration does not lie in them, but, on the contrary, in the 
sphere of truth which the Bible, as a whole, makes known. The in- 
spiration is in the spiritual manifestations it contains — the revela- 
tion of God's will to men ; and wherever this is, there we can feel 
God's spirit like a living breath, giving energy and vivifying power. 
It is, thus, separated from the other kinds of inspiration we have 
mentioned by the object of its activity, which is more special, while 
the objects which occupy the mind in poetry, e.g., and excite it to 
the unusual pitch which we describe as inspired, are general, and as 
varied as our knowledge and experience. The inspiration of Bible 
authors has also the meaning and range which it possesses in the 
other cases we have noticed. In so far as they are orators, poets* 


seers, and literary men in general, they will come under the wider 
designation of men inspired. But this kind of ecstatic mental atti- 
tude was with them, as it is with others, a fluctuating thing, and 
dependent on various physical, as well as mental conditions. The 
state of inspiration which deals with spiritual realities is not such 
a casual thing, but is rather, in its later and more fully developed 
state, a habit of the soul, an abiding enlightenment of spiritual 
vision, that enables the man who is the subject of it, to perceive 
Divine relations and truths, to assimilate them, and communicate 
them to others. Unlike poetic inspiration when fancy bred, it has 
actual inner manifestation as the co-relative to all spiritual activity 
and one of its primary conditions. It is like all inspiration, how- 
ever, in being an individual and conscious process. The man 
spiritually inspired is not the mere conduit of something outside of 

Theodore Parker, who makes the comparison between the deca- 
logue and the "Principia," to which reference has just been made, and 
who has endeavoured to bring out strongly the human element in 
Scripture, and laboured with becoming earnestness to shew the 
naturalness of religion, speaks a certain amount of truth when 
he says, that Paul could not have written had not Zeno lived, nor 
John had not Plato ; just as Newton could not have written with- 
out Pythagoras and Euclid preceding him. But the truth in this 
remark is, that the course of thought previously to these New Testa- 
ment writers, so far as we see, must have coloured their conceptions 
in some way ; but not by any means that the writings of Paul, for 
example, were a strict evolution from Zeno onwards, or that the writ- 
ings of John have the same affiliation on Plato that the " Principia" 
of Newton has on Euclid. It would be rash to say that John 
could have written without Plato, or Paul without Zeno. These have 
been facts in the progress of mind and thought in our civilisation, and 
we cannot estimate wh&t would have taken place with hypothetical 
positions and characters eliminated from history. Such problems are 
complex enough to work on the given facts, but it would be worse 
than making bricks without straw, to draw conclusions without facts. 
We can say, however, that there is ndt the same lineal connection 
between Paul and Zeno, John and Plato, that there is between 
Newton and Euclid. What Plato and Zeno have furnished to John 
and Paul respectively, has been at most the forms in which their 
spiritual truths and unfoldings of spiritual experiences are narrated. 
What, on the other hand, Euclid furnished to Newton was the 

N 2 


principles, as well as the method of his investigation. No amount 
of induction through the line of Zeno and Plato, could have brought 
John and Paul to the position they occupy in the New Testament. 
A history of physical science will, on the contrary, shew any one the 
absolute dependence of present investigation of natural phenomena, 
on the labours and results of those who have gone before. There 
is a great deal too much influence ascribed to systems of thought. 
It often happens that they supply the framework of our general 
thinking for a time, until they give place to some more recent and 
satisfactory mould ; but there are subjects of thought and expe- 
riences in emotional and spiritual life, that may be felt and described 
independently of any such system. They may be mixed up with 
them or they may not, but they are separable from them, just as 
language is. They are like technical terms, which give pith and 
expedition to our thinking and writing. With a world of systems 
behind him Schiller, in his letters on osthetic culture, could say that 
he was little practised in scholastic terms, and discussed his ques- 
tion from facts given him in the sensibility of his friend, and laws 
dictated by his intellect. The forms of thought are as evanescent 
as anything could well be ; as Dante says, — 

" Like boughs upon a tree 
They go, and others come." 

In distinguishing between Scripture authors and others, it must 
not be forgotten that the spheres in which their activities operated 
were different, and that the affiliation of the one on the other can 
scarcely be of the direct kind that is attempted to be made out. 
If the impulse which stirred them all be designated by the same 
name, such as inspiration, we must still resort to Paul's distinction, 
in order to discriminate activities directed to objects so different, 
although operating through human intelligences, and through what- 
ever previous efforts after the same order of truth these human in- 
telligences had inherited and assimilated to themselves, viz., that 
the one was an inspiration, not through the wisdom of this world, 
but the wisdom of God. Let us by all means allow for the human 
element in the Bible, which plays, though in varying measure, 
through every page of it : no less in the words and acts of TKir} who 
spake as never man spake, than in the historical records which 
compose so large a part of this collection. But let us not be blind 
to the spiritual element that plays through all, and which, and not 
its literal infallibility, constitutes its real pre-eminence in literature, 
in which lies its power and vitality, as in deed and in truth the 


word of God,— oar guide to a higher life, whose leading we can 
follow with securer step in that we follow the footprints, not alone of 
God's own Son, but the footprints of men who have straggled with 
sin, and the darkness it produces in human souls, and who in their 
writings have left us side by side with their reflection of that Divine 
light, which appeared among men in the course of the ages, and 
whose fulness they were permitted to gaze upon, the strivings of their 
own spirits after the spiritual life made known to them — struggles 
by no means always successful, which, indeed, were only to be 
crowned with success hereafter, when likeness to Him had prepared 
their nature for the fullest perception and realisation of that which 
they now saw only darkly, but whose spiritual glory it was given 
them in a measure to reveal through His indwelling in them. Of 
this abiding presence they had the deepest consciousness in the 
Spirit which he had given them, but which they made known 
only with that degree of enlightenment attained by them, through 
purifying themselves as He is pure. 

As a revelation, or manifestation of the spiritual in the natural, 
we have seen that spiritual truth is differentiated from other truths ; 
as a scripture, or written record of this manifestation, the Bible 
is differentiated from other books. As it is a book simply and not 
a revelation, it is a product of art and resembles other kinds of 
literature. Some one has said that it is different from all other 
books, as a natural product is from a product of art. I can see little 
meaning in that, because products of art are natural products, or 
they are bad works of art. It is a current idea in regard to this 
subject, that there exists a certain analogy between the universe 
and the Bible, which is expressed by saying that God is the author 
of both. It is probably as against this notion that the remark has 
been made, with the view of ascribing a lower position to the book 
of revelation, "that the book of the universe, as it is called, has 
her page open to all ; that her language is intelligible ; that there 
is no erasure of her text or interpolation ; that there is the same 
genuineness now as when the first page was written ; that the reve- 
lation it gives has not closed, but that ever new epistles are coming 
forth, each signed with the Author's own hand, and bearing the un- 
doubted character of Divine inspiration ; that in the universe we 
still have a Son telling us of a Father ; and in its natural beauty 
and excellence we have a \6yot f revealing the grace and truth of 
its invisible source," etc. In reply to this, we shall not repeat what 
we said at the outset, regarding the revelation that we actually found 


given by nature ; it is, however, not difficult to see how such writers 
as the one that has just been quoted derive this spiritual revelation 
from the natural. It is obtained by an illicit process — by transferring, 
not only the language, but also the sense of spiritual things into the 
natural world. The notions of Son and Father, as here employed, 
. are not of kosmical origin, — at least, it has never been shewn that 
they are ; nor are the other assertions, in the contrast between the 
natural revelation or natural creation, and the spiritual revelation 
as a record, true. We know, e.g., that the pages of nature are not so 
open nor her language so intelligible to all, as is here taken for 
granted. There are quite as few true observers of nature, and inter- 
preters of her meanings in her works, as could ever be claimed, by 
exclusionists, for the Bible. If paucity of commentators and diffi- 
culty of commenting, be any argument in support of a common 
origin of the two books, the argument is irrefragable. How few 
transcendency good naturalists have we ! how limited the number of 
men who see the more secret phenomena, that speak to the imagina- 
tive faculty, and find expression in true poetry or high art! It 
requires endless patience, diligence, and culture to see a very little, 
to understand the mere alphabet of this easy language. Then again, 
it is contrary to fact to say that there is no erasure of the text of the 
book of the universe ; not that this matters very much in regard 
to the question of authenticity. But there are, as all geologists 
know, erasures in the text of their old MSS. ; as all physicists can 
testify, there are numerous interpolations that task the keenest 
powers of analysis and investigation to eliminate. We know, e.g., 
that the texts of the corresponding strata in different parts of the 
world have been declared by competent geologists and naturalists 
to vary sometimes to such an extraordinary degree as occasionally 
to render very precarious some induction, as, for instance, the grad- 
ation of the species tabulated in them, and very notably texts like 
these have left large holes, honestly confessed, in the argument of 
Mr. Darwin. Criticism and thought and observation are needed for 
both records. Not that to any devoted student of nature, or serious 
reader of Scripture revelation, the erasures in the text of the one or 
the other are of such a nature as to present anything like obstacles 
to belief, far less of a kind to produce sceptical conclusions. The 
erasures and interpolations, if men only would think, are utterly in- 
different to the great result. They seem a sort of evidence of what 
we mean, popularly speaking, by the naturalness of the agencies at 
work in both cases. As there is no miraculous power exerted to 



prevent the upheaval and after weathering and denudation of a rock 
bed in some district, so there is no evident miraculous preservation 
of the letters of the Bible. Ordinary laws operate at will in both 
instances, and not any mechanical plan devised by some apologist, 
who thinks eternal principles are gone because some letter has 
slipped out of its place. The universe exists with whole fields of 
coal measures blotted out, and spiritual life and truth will continue 
with more extensive erasures, and larger and more irrelevant interpo- 
lations than have ever been discovered in the record of it. Criticism 
of the kind alluded to is, however, inevitable, and well merited, so 
long as men are superstitious enough to cling to what is so evidently 
the rudimentary belief of an uninformed age. The Bible has a real 
sacredness lying deeper than language, history, morals, science, or 
anything else in it, but this can never affect us, as it might, while we 
are satisfied, with its false sanctity. Christ remarked once that they 
were free indeed whom He made free ; but excepting Mahometanism 
there is no system which brings its members under greater bondage 
of the mental and spiritual powers than Christianity — a bondage due 
in a very large degree to an extreme conception of the nature of their 
religious record. It only needs a conscientious and honest exami- 
nation of the Bible in order to rectify our notions respecting its 
character, and prepare the way for assigning it its true and proper 
place in the economy of spiritual life. 




Tliis is the record, that God hath given to as eternal life ; and this life 

is in His Son." 

We come now to consider the contents of Scripture revelation, as 
compared with other forms of truth. It is evident that this cannot 
be done in detail, but only in a general way. It may seem an 
irregular proceeding to determine the nature of Scripture revelation 
before an examination of its contents ; for, at the first glance it would 
appear that the contents should determine our view of the nature 
of the contained truth or system of truths. And in describing the 
character and position of the Jewish and Christian records, I have not 
been able to keep entirely out of sight some of the distinctive truths 
in these records. It was impossible to avoid doing so ; nor was it 
necessary to try to avoid it, so long as the contents were not formally 
brought forward for the purpose of discussing them. 

The examination of the preceding question is, in itself, and apart 
from the more material question of the contents of revelation, not 
only a legitimately distinct branch of inquiry, but one that lies at 
the base of all theology. The answer given to the question, What is 
the nature of Scripture revelation P will very much affect our manner 
of regarding the second part of the subject, the contents of this 
revelation. But this is as it should be. If the correct answer be 
given to the first question, the solution of the second will be very 
much facilitated. It will at least shew us the way in which we 
should approach the subject, and also the method of its treatment. 
It must of course be remembered that in all such preliminary and 
formal questions, whether of revelation or science, any definition 
we give at the outset will limit, to a considerable extent, after 
inquiry. A definition of a science is very often a provisional matter, 
to be afterwards more strictly or more widely interpreted, by a 
detailed treatment of its subject-matter. In the course of such 
treatment, the discovery of any new truth in the special science 
under discussion, or even in some of the adjacent sciences, may disu 
close fiel Is of investigation and generate subdivisions in the science 


that were before unknown, besides bringing within its jurisdiction 
the outlying provinces of other sciences previously considered to be 
entirely separated from it. So that both from within, by the dis- 
covery, as it were, of unknown regions in the interior, and from 
without, by the annexation of adjacent regions, the face of a science 
may be changed, its boundaries better known, and, what is of chief 
importance, its principles and methods made plainer. Nor is it 
less true of revelation than of scientific truth, that for the purpose 
of fixing the province of any branch of inquiry, a knowledge more 
or less accurate is needed of at least many more subjects than the one 
to be defined. For, to attempt a sketch of either the one or the 
other on any other condition would be much the same as to try to 
draw in outline the provinces of any country without a knowledge 
of the boundaries of that and neighbouring countries. One of two 
errors would be certain to be committed: we should oither ne- 
glect many portions which ought properly to be included, or include 
many others that ought properly to be exoluded. It is quite true 
that we must start with some rough map of the ground over which 
we are to travel, however general it may be ; but a perfectly correct 
and useful map can be drawn only by one who has well traversed the 
country. It was for this reason that references had occasionally t 
be made to the contents of Scripture, — references apparently antici- 
patory of the after inquiry, but in truth only facilitating it. If we 
had not done so, we should have encountered the serious difficulty of 
sketching that which was only seen as it were through a haze. We 
should almost certainly have taken vapour for our province and cloud 
for its coast line, and been consequently compelled to leave its 
inmost recesses unexplored, or have depicted them by imagination. 

The preceding investigation led naturally to a description of the 
general character of Scripture revelation, as a record of spiritual 
facts that had been manifested forth and introduced into a national 
history, and through that into the world history. But, besides, in 
consequence of this introduction of the spiritual into natural events 
they were so far subjected to natural processes in their record and 
arrangement. That which is spiritual and Divine in them, is the 
manifestation ; that which is human is the element with which the 
manifestation was necessarily combined. 

The contents of these books, although really of this composite 
character, have the elements so united, that a result is produced in 
which, as was shown, the Divine and human so interpenetrate as to 
form something resembling what has been designated in the theo- 



logical dogma of the person of Christ, — an incarnation. This is the 
answer to the how of revelation ; the answer to what is revealed will 
be the answer to the present question regarding the contents of 
the Bible. Within the Scriptures there is a great variety of sub- 
ject-matter, bnt my present intention is not to index this multiform 
collection, bnt to show what is the main burden of revelation proper. 
There is folly more hesitancy and wavering statement on this 
subject than on the nature and composition of the record. Between 
the wide inclusive assertion that everything is revealed that can be 
subject of thought to man, to the wide exclusive assertion that man 
needs no revelation whatever — no more of spiritual truth than of 
agricultural, as it has been put — we can find all the intermediate 
degrees of belief. Many hold the Bible to contain a scheme separ- 
ated from other truths, and in no wise to be amalgamated with them ; 
a few maintain that there is no such scheme of Divine truth to be 
kept apart from what has been called the heap of vulgar experiences 
and notions that pass by the name of world experiences; others 
think that it contains no system of truth at all, but resembles a kind 
of spiritual creation. Many say that it gives us facts not otherwise 
known or knowable by us ; a few assert that it is only a positive 
statement of common experienoe. Some say that it is the power of 
revealing a living God ; others, that it is the spiritual action of this 
power in the past. It exhibits to us a moral order in the universe, 
say a few ; it manifests, say others, a personal Will interfering in the 
world-plan. It contains the after thought of God, say some, and is a 
supernatural law added to the natural ; it is fore-ordained from all 
eternity, say others, and contains a spiritual law opposed to natural 
law. It contains the religion of Christians, say certain thinkers, and 
whatever else it may contain need not be perfect; its general character 
is religious, say others, but there are things in it not properly religious 
as well, the infallible correctness of which is not to be questioned. 
It is a doctrine, say some ; a life, others maintain. It is an unveiling 
of mysteries, one says ; that is to me inconceivable, replies another, 
since our understanding is not fitted for such a deposit. It may ap- 
pear singular that the contents of Scripture are so variously appre- 
hended, and yet under these many modes in which thoughtful men 
have tried to express what is revealed, or said to be revealed, there 
may be a greater consilience of opinion than at first sight appears. 
At all events there is quite as much agreement as can be found 
among a great majority, who unite in saying that the Bible contains 
all that is necessary for man's salvation, — a medicinal recipS, as 


some one calls it, for diseased souls; for we have to learn what is 
thought to be necessary for this purpose. We all know, e.g., how rash 
some good men are, and how they persist in perilling* their own 
soul, and the souls of others, on what looks to many an utterly 
insignificant point. And then we hare to understand in what 
salvation itself consists, for there is as much difficulty attending the 
statement of this apparently elementary matter, as there is about 
the contents of Scripture. The idea of salvation suggests very dif- 
ferent things to different minds. To many it only means a happy and 
magical escape from some awful and endless horror; to others it 
means a progression of our higher life, through some definite agency, 
to an ultimate perfection. Between these two extremes there are 
many grades of opinion distinct enough to give rise to various 
ideas regarding the means of reaching this final goal, or of avoiding 
the hated calamity, and consequently to originate specific conceptions 
of the contents of Scripture revelation, even if these contents be 
considered by all to include what is necessary for salvation. Al- 
though the contents of the Bible be defined by the same words, it is 
' very evident that the difference between those who agree upon the 
formula may be as great as that between them and any of those who 
regard its contents in the various ways previously mentioned. 

It is scarcely a legitimate thing to determine the contents of 
any book, or other object from the name we may chance to give it 
unless indeed the name sum up these contents. If the name be thus 
connotative, the explanation of the contents from it is merely a 
retranslation of the name, or a writing of it in full. It is from such 
a position that we have the contents of the Bible described as the 
removal of a veil which had hidden God from man. But revelation 
has a double meaning, which is not always sufficiently attended to. 
It signifies both the revelation made to men, and the written account 
of that revelation. Now it is quite evident that the description of 
revelation as an unveiling may be true to the full of the first mean- 
ing, and only to a certain extent true of the second. It is with the 
second meaning, however, that we have at present to do, not revela- 
tion itself nor the contents of it, but the contents of a written 
account of it. These contents have a character which separates them 
very widely from the contents of most sacred books. There is an 
undoubted unity pervading them, but there is an inequality quite 

* I do not, of course, mean that the peril is actual, but that the excellent men 
to whom I allude think it so. 


as decided. No one would oontend that they are all alike impor- 
tant on the special subject which is apparent in all oV nearly all 
the parts. We can as little imagine any one conceiving them as an 
unmixed account of spiritual revelation. What we call Scripture 
revelation is a very extensive literature extending over many cen- 
turies, and showing marks of its successive stages. There is a certain 
mechanical notion prevalent regarding Scripture which very much 
obscures any true idea of its contents. It is astonishing to find even 
Leasing arguing from this standpoint. He makes revealed religion 
equal to positive law, and then holds all so-called revealed religions 
equally false and equally true : equally true, because necessary to a 
harmony of social and public religion ; equally false, because all limit- 
ing what he calls natural religion. The best revealed religion he 
thinks is that which contains least conventional additions. The 
fundamental position here is the non-naturalness of revealed religion, 
— a position which it need hardly be said has been supplied to Leasing, 
not from philosophical but Christian schools, and it is a position 
still strenuously held by Christian thinkers. No one who reads 
Scripture with any degree of attention, and marks the progress of 
its truth, and the various matters with which it is commingled, can 
leave it with a feeling of its conventionality. It is as truly a 
natural outgrowth of the spirit of man, as any human development 
elsewhere seen or known. The only sense in which it can be said 
to be not natural is, that it is not a conclusion from nature, as 
generally understood by that term. It is natural in the sense 
opposed to conventional, however, in so far as it is in accordance with 
the constitution of man. What strikes one, the longer one reads the 
Bible, is its extreme naturalness, and its resemblance, in this respect, 
to all God's works. There is the like growth, the like principle of 
evolution ; the same clear consecutiveness and unity of life, from 
low to higher. Other religions known to us went through certain 
stages which might be said in a sense to depend on each other ; 
but their dependence does not appear one of successive advances 
but rather of cycles. Many of them instead of progressing have, 
within experience, gone backwards. This stream, however, whose 
beginning we have seen in what afterwards became the Jewish na- 
tion, has flowed steadily onwards through the ages, gathering 
volume as it went. Now the Scripture is the account of this ad- 
vance, an evidently faithful history of those several developments. 

One other thing to be noticed, affecting the question of Scripture 
contents almost as much as that which we have just mentioned, and 


in some measure bound up with it, is the violent manner in which 
we are in the habit of separating our religious life, and consequently 
the religious life and thought of former times, from our ordinary 
life and thought. This is most unnatural and false, and cannot but 
produce erroneous views. Its effects on religious life will after- 
wards require to be noticed ; but its effect on religious thought is 
not unimportant. It is impossible for spiritual life thus to manifest 
itself. It must have relations in which to operate. If this be so— 
if we cannot have, as it has been put somewhere, religion in vacuo, 
it is not at all likely that we shall have its history recorded inde- 
pendent of all relations. The Jews were a religious people, but 
they were men with eyes for the outside world, with relations to 
each other and to other people ; all implying actions and experiences 
in which the religious forces would be operative. The consequence 
of these two facts would be that Scripture revelation must shew an 
evolution in what is its special subject, and that it will also con- 
tain other elements necessarily mingled with that special subject 
Hooker expresses the first consequence, in the only language that 
his time admitted, when he says, in reference to some supposed moral 
difficulties in the Old Testament, " If the end for which laws were 
made should cease, the laws cease ; if the same subject or matter 
does not remain, although the end remain, even this is sufficient 
to cause a change: and therefore a law, although ordained by God 
Himself, and the end for which it ordained continue, may, not 
withstanding, cease, if by alteration of persons or times it be found 
insufficient to attain unto such ends." All this simply means that 
there is an adaptation of some kind in revelation. Perhaps the way 
in which it would be stated now would be from the side of man, 
and not from that of God : that the spiritual manifestation was per* 
ceived by man only bo far as his inner spiritual life was capable of 
Buch apprehension. But whichever way we may state it, the result 
as to the contents of the Bible is the same. 

The second consequence of the above facts is beginning to be felt 
more and more, and is endeavoured to be formulated by the distinc- 
tion between what is essential and non-essential in the Scriptures* 
Directly we have what is essential ; indirectly we have much that is 
not so. What the non-essentials in the Scriptures are, we shall con- 
sider in a future chapter. The direct communications in the Bible 
are, of course, those which most concern us, as they are the contents 
which must always be its distinguishing characteristic. 

All the definitions that have been given of the distinctive contents 


of this book agree in saying that their general character is religions, 
whether this be the religions experiences of man subjectively, or 
objectively considered. The difficulty here is as to what is specially 
religions; some including nnder it a whole system of truths, par- 
taking more or less of the nature of mysteries, while others hold 
it to mean simply a higher morality. The Bible, as a series of books 
about religion, may have mysteries, what has not ? bnt its essential 
contents cannot be mysterious in the sense that we can in no way 
apprehend them, while we must accept them. There has been no 
greater harm done to religion than that committed by its friends 
when they insist upon its essential mysterionsness. And the mistake 
is equal to the mischief done. The contents of revelation are never 
and nowhere represented as a mystery. The fulness of revelation 
is generally supposed to be found in Christ ; but where in any teach- 
ing is there such lucidity ? He cleared away a good deal of the 
mystery that perverse thinking had created. He let in much light 
upon men's minds; at no point does He increase the darkness. He 
was emphatically the light shining in a dark place : the light of 
the world that lighteth every man that cometh into it. A New 
Testament writer, it is true, exclaims, " Great is the mystery of god- 
liness!" but the most materialistic thinker and most thorough- 
going positivist will equally exclaim on the mystery of many things 
around him. Christ, too, speaks of it being given to His disciples 
to know the mysteries of His kingdom, but this has plainly refer- 
ence to the form in which He clothed this teaching. There are also 
mysteries spoken of in the Bible which have been designated by 
some the mysteries of art, such as those called by Zophar (Job 
xi. 6), " the secrets of wisdom," and those in the Apocalypse of 
John. And besides these there are, as we have said, mysteries in 
revelation just as there are mysteries around us everywhere. Any 
one with their spiritual vision quickened, and their moral sensibility 
awakened in a manner similar to the apostles of Christ, must have 
felt difficulties pressing upon them, which were to them new mys- 
teries in the best sense of that word. The man who sees most 
mystery in life around him is the man with delicate susceptibilities, 
and powers of observation most highly] cultured. By such a one 
the feeling of Paul must frequently be realised. Paul, more than 
any apostle or Bible writer, speaks thus of Christian truth ; a man- 
ner of speech which is to be explained in a great measure by his 
mode of looking at Christian life. He more than any other made 
it the subject of intellectual contemplation. He viewed it in its re- 


lations to the past, and thus spoke of the mystery kept secret since 
the world began. He felt the strong opposition it would meet with 
in the immediate future, and spoke of the mystery of iniquity which 
shaped itself to his mind. He rejoiced in a hope that often sustained 
him in his own daily struggles, and which he communicates to the 
Corinthians: "Behold, I shew you a mystery: we shall not all 
sleep." A distinction must, however, be made between these so- 
called mysteries, and revelation proper. These seem to be rather the 
consequences of revelation than the essential contents of it. In 
itself spiritual truth is clear as noon-day ; otherwise one fails to see 
the force of its general presentation to mankind, and its special 
adaptation to the poor and the unlearned. It ought to be observed 
that Paul does not try to explain the mysteries he speaks about ; he 
saw them, but the explanation of them might still be in the distant 
future. They were mysteries to him as well as other men, but first 
clearly observed as such and stated by him. 

We are very far from seeking to make out that all the contents of 
Scripture and their consequences are so plain, that he may run who 
readeth them. They require more steady conning than they have 
ever yet received, in order to know and understand them fully ; but 
every one must be greatly concerned to shew that what is vital in 
them is written in the largest and plainest letters. He who will 
have the Bible free of all mystery had first clear the world of such. 
The opinion of Henry More appears very near the truth, " that 
those who contend for absolute clearness in all parts of religion shew 
more clownishness than judgment, and their zeal not so much for 
truth as out of pride and vainglory ; they taking it very ill that 
anything in the mystery of godliness should be so mysterious as 
that their conceited reason cannot comprehend it." We need not 
be among those, however, whom he says, "brood over that they 
know not and slight that they know." " What makes matter," as 
he exclaims, " though the bottom of the well be fathomless, if the 
water we reach be but pure and useful." It is this " pure and 
useful " water which concerns us. The well may be fathomless — we 
believe it is, — but at any rate the water is attainable, else we should 
never have heard the cry, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, 
and drink." We must first drink of this living water if we are to live ; 
and then there may come skill and leisure to take soundings of the 
"great deep." In common experience speculation surely follows 
existence. We feel the sun's beams, and are warmed and gladdened 
by them many a day before we ever think of analysing them or in- 


vestigating their source. Physical life itself is a mystery, but the 
means for sustaining it are not dependent on our solution of this 
enigma. Spiritual life is a mystery, but there needs no explanation 
of the mystery in order to become sharers in the life. We behold 
in sunbeams God Himself revealed in His relation of love to man in 
Jesus : " and this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the 
only true Ood, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent." A great 
mystery certainly, who doubts ? but is it not a mystery to a mind 
of ordinary susceptibility, to look round upon this earth, and into 
the new depths and receding distances of the midnight sky, and 
think, What a child I am, and what a world I'm in ! And as the 
mystery is, not that the world is there and the heavens are there, 
but how they are there, so the mystery is, not that God is there and 
Christ is there, but how they are there. 

That which is the special content of Scripture revelation from 
first to last, is the knowledge of Ood in relation to man. We have 
this in a clear historical development in the Jewish nation, the faint 
consciousness of it growing clearer and clearer. Occasional obscur- 
ations are evident, but on the whole, as we have seen, there is a 
steady advance in this knowledge until the time of Christ, who was 
to reveal the Father as no preceding prophet had done. His pur- 
pose (and we see how it was fulfilled) was to declare God's name : 
that is, not the mere declaration that there is a God — this had been 
declared again and again, but to declare the character and will 
of Ood, as revealed in His own life and death. It is not a teleo- 
logy that the Bible contains, and which we have seen reason to 
believe was the character of much of what the modern interpretation 
of mythology gives us as a knowledge of Ood, prevalent among all 
the great Aryan nations as well as the Semitic. Mythologists refer 
us impressively to the names deva, daeva, deus, dcva-s, deiwa-s, dia, 
in Sanscrit, Zend, Latin, Lithuanian, Old Prussian, and Old Irish ; 
but we have not yet seen it proved that this widespread name cor* 
responded to much more than an extended generalisation of sense 
experience. The knowledge of Ood in Christ is as different as 
possible from this. Ontology and theology, or the knowledge of 
Ood, are not convertible terms, as is too often taken for granted. 
The revelation of God in the Bible, is a revelation which no teleo- 
logical conclusions yet brought forward have ever approached. If 
not different in kind, there is an infinite difference in degree between 
them. It is a favourite notion with some theologians that the ra* 
tionalist, as he is called, will find at his furthest advance that he has 



been approaching by a direct; path to the threshold of revelation. 
This may be the rase, but it certainly is not demonstrable. So 
far indeed from the sphere of truth contained in the Bible being the 
summit of rational truth, as yet to every appearance it is separated 
from the latter by a chaotic world, which men can only call " the 
void and formless infinite," the incomprehensible, the insoluble, or 
by any other meaningless negation. The most that we can say con- 
cerning this, independently of revelation and its methods, is, We feel 
the shadow of something brooding over ub wherever we advance ; or, 
better still, as has been imagined by Dr. Arnold, " This pyramid [of 
knowledge], like the unfinished tower of Babel, can never reach God. 
It stands for ever manifestly incomplete, yet incapable of being com* 
pie ted, for the power that reared the rest of the fabric cannot find 
nor lay in its place that last and crowning stone." Teleology has 
never been but barren ; the knowledge of God in Christ is, on the 
contrary, generative of spiritual life. 

" Ye search the Scriptures," Christ said to the Jews ; " for in them 
ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me." 
That is the true description of Scripture contents, a witness to Christ, 
who is a witness to God. The purpose of this we have in Christ's 
own words, " I have declared unto them Thy name, . . . that 
the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in 
them." It is thus a record of the manifestation of the moral and 
spiritual nature of God, to the end that we may become partakers 
of His Spirit. This was the burden of all the old Testament re- 
velations by lawgivers and prophets. Imperfect though they were, 
and though the men were never wearied of confessing their imper- 
fections, they led up to that perfect declaration of God's will which 
Christ gave in His teaching and action, and for which the older 
prophets, from Moses downwards, longed ; some for the greater pro- 
phet, others for the typical revelation, when the law was to be 
written in men's hearts, and in no statute book : a law that was not 
to be what men call a law of necessity, but in the highest sense a 
law of liberty. Christ came, and with a clearness and precision that 
had never been witnessed, spoke and acted according to this law of 
liberty, that we might live in the same freedom. His revelation was 
an embodiment of what the Hebrew mind faintly saw, what the Ar- 
yan mind in its spiritual aspect we think never can with confidence 
be said to have seen — of the life of Sonship in God.* The freedom 

* This is the explanation of the directness of Christ's revelation as compared 



of His spiritual life lay in the harmony of His will with tho Father's : 
the consequence and partly the condition of which was, that He had 
the Spirit without measure. Christ knew that He had the Father, 
and we also know that He abideth in us by the Spirit which He 
hath given us, — a Spirit which was seen revealed in the Son of God 
in all its fulness — which is everywhere in the world, although not 
perceived — the Spirit of God's love. Through this manifestation 
" we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is 
love ; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in 
him." The late Mr. Thomas Erskine seizes the distinctive content 
of Scripture when he says, the gospel is not "he that believeth 
shall be saved," but " God so loved the world that He sent His Son." 
As John says, "The Son of God is come, and hath given us an under- 
standing, that we may know Him that is true." We have God's 
love made known to us, that it may be perfected in us as it was in 

The Bible is thus not in any sense specially concerned with what 
is not unfrequently imagined to be distinctively its message to man, 
viz., a revelation of immortality, in the sense in which this is com- 
monly taken. As a doctrine and belief, immortality is almost, if not 
entirely, universal. The most barbarous tribes believe in some kind 
of life after death, and a great part, in some cases the only part, of 
their religion is concerned with acts of worship that have reference 
to their departed friends, who are firmly believed to exist in the 
unseen. Among the wildest American tribes ; in Polynesia, Africa, 
China, India, as well as Egypt, and Greece, and in all with greater 
distinctness, and far more 1 certainty of proof than among the Jews, 
this belief was prevalent. As has been said, it seems often strongest 
where intellectual culture and moral life is lowest ; at least, it is not 
evidently dependent upon the purity of a spiritual religion, and 
never can be a criterion of an undoubted "spiritual religion like 
Christianity. The vividness with which the Norsemen pictured 
their abodes of bliss, the realism manifested by still existing peo- 
ples in their descriptions of the journey, over perilous bridges and 
slippery passes, of the disembodied soul to its new abode, equal any- 
thing that Bunyan has written of his famous Pilgrim's progress to 
the Christian heaven. Where men have no other belief that is pecu- 
liarly religious, they cling tenaciously to this. Instead of its being 

with that of tho prophets, and the occasional declaration of its indirectness : " I 
speak not of Myself." 


the ultimate revelation in religion, it seems an elementary conception 
of the uncultured man. It is with some such popular view of re- 
ligion in his own mind that Leasing urges the reason against astro- 
logy as a valid reason against revealed religion. "If it were indeed 
true/ 1 he says, " that there were an art (such as astrology) to know 
the future, we would rather not learn this art ; although it were true 
that there was a religion which apprised us quite undoubtedly of 
that life, we would rather give no ear to that religion." One is at 
first surprised that a philosopher should regard the Bible as contain* 
ing anything like an astrology of the spiritual life, in view of Christ's 
declaration concerning the knowledge of a future event ; and yet 
Lessing was not simply drawing a caricature. The declaration I 
allude to is the following : " But of that day and hour knoweth no 
man; no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only." The Bible 
contains no disclosure of world secrets; in the spiritual as elsewhere, 
we must find out such by diligent investigation and prolonged ex- 
perience, and not by consultation of a written oracle. The contrary 
of this, however, is a common enough opinion, regarding Scripture 
contents, although it may not always be displayed in the same man- 
ner. While some hold it a kind of repertory for an astrology of a 
life beyond life, others look upon it as furnishing data from which 
we may descry events yet distant in modern society. This must 
have been something like Sir Isaac Newton's conception of, at least, 
some portions of it ; and one cannot help being amazed to find a 
man like Dr. Chalmers supporting the view as he does in his " Lec- 
tures on the Romans," on the ground of a false analogy. Speaking 
of Newton, he says, " After having looked, and with steadfastness, 
for years on the face of heaven, and evolved thenceforth the mag- 
nificent cycles of astronomy, he then turned him to Scripture, and 
found in the midst of its now unrivalled obscurities, that its cycles 
of prophecy were equally magnificent; and whether he oast his 
regards on the book of Revelation or on the book of Daniel, who^ 
placed on the eminence of a sublime antiquity, looked through the 
vista of many descending ages and eyed from afar the structure of 
modern Europe," etc. Modern criticism makes very short work with 
this supposed "eminence" of "sublime antiquity," when it turns 
these " orbits of the spiritual economy " into the dramatic efforts of 
artistic and spiritual minds. But, even granting them to be the 
prophetic utterances of the men whose names they bear, we are 
very far from the somewhat astrological position of Newton and 
Chalmers; we are all the way between the horoscopic view of 

o 2 


stellar phenomena and pare astronomical science, between reading 
fortunes and demonstrating principles. Neither Newton, nor Chal- 
mers, nor Dr, Cumming with all the most recent improvements, 
will find out from Scripture on their very literal method half as 
much of the future as a trained and expert sociologist. It is not 
by uncritical reading of a book, but by reading the signs of the 
times in the light of principles gathered from the experiences of the 
past, that we can make out in a dim outline the form of the near 
future. Of the result of principles in spiritual life working in certain 
conditions, any one with the requisite experience may confidently 
speak, but of the day and the hour and the place no one can tell, 
unless by a process of self-delusion which is lamentable to think of. 
The apostles had a slight inclination to this kind of thing ; but it did 
not, according to almost universal acknowledgment, come to very 
much even in their hands. Their announcements of the second 
coming of Christ turned out to be a decided mistake. 

The conception of the Bible as a sure basis for astrological obser- 
vations on a future life has done as much harm to religious life and 
character, as the conception of prophecy, of which we have just 
spoken has done to religious knowledge and Biblical interpretation. 
Christ never affected any more than the Old Testament writers to 
open up the world beyond the grave, — not but that it was opened 
in a measure by both.* He came to reveal a spiritual life which 
should be in us now — that life of which I have spoken — hidden with 
Him in God. He " hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in 
His Son." This is a life, then, like the Son's : a life, therefore, 
whose meat and drink is to do God's will like Him. A man once 
came to Christ saying, " Good Master, what good thing shall I do 
that I may inherit eternal life P " This man was prompted by an 
irresistible desire which is found in the breasts of all mankind, for 
what they think an enduring existence, an undying inheritance, a 
kind of imperishable being. He had evidently the impression that 
Christ made some pretence to an intimate relation with the unseen 
state, and he wished to know the conditions of this enviable heritage. 
Christ does not answer this state of mind in His reply. He has 
no revelation about any inheritance above, as a state of merit for 
some good thing done, or fact believed, by man below. He does 

* All the elaborate disquisitions upon this subject in our older theology, and 
in more recent times, would probably never have been penned had the conception 
of revelation as a discovery of mysteries and a groundwork for spiritual astro- 
logy not been firmly established in the theological mind. 


not indeed go beyond the revelation already known to the man. 
Christ says on another occasion in answer to a similar question put 
by a scribe, Thou art a lawyer, and knowest what is written; 
" how readest thoa ? " Love God with all yonr powers of heart 
and mind and soul, and your neighbour as yourself, the man replies. 
Do this, Christ says, " and thou shalt live." It is a life that He 
reveals and communicates, and not immortality. 

It is a mode of living that the gospel is concerned with, and it 
reveals this mode of living in God through Him who was the 
manifestation of God, and shews us how it may become ours. 
Christianity inculcates as little anxiety about a future spiritual life 
as about a future bodily one. Its principle and its practice, as seen 
in Him who is the great revealer, are alike in both cases : Take no 
thought for the morrow ; " sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." 
As Goethe says, " Was aber ist deine Pfiicht ? Die Forderung des 
Tages." Life in the present is the strong feature of the Bible 
teaching. There is no encouragement in Christ's life for the 
sentimentalism which is so strong in our modern religious life, and 
bo well reflected in much of our hymnology — a kind of childish 
crying after what is, we fear, notwithstanding our boasted spirituality 
in religion, a very sensuous heavenly inheritance.* Surely the 
teaching of Christ, as well as the evidence of the working of His 
Spirit in us, goes to show that he only who has done his work 
deserves to be permitted to lay down his life. The best preparation 
for death is a preparation for godly living. He is readiest to die 
to-morrow who is living most fitly to-day. Since men have looked 
upon the Bible as containing their " title to mansions in the skies," 
and not the elements of a life in God on earth, there has been a 
great deal of conventional preparation for these mansions, as if the 
life there would be essentially different from the life here. But, if 
unending progress in life be not mere words, if spiritual perfection 
be not a phrase, if likeness to God, and assimilation to His character 
be not a barren sentiment — and these are what the Bible is concerned 
with, — can that being realise this highest happiness which we, with 
Christ's example and teaching and promise before us, can picture 
for him, who has been a comparative stranger to the life from which 
all these spring P Are spiritual perfection and spiritual development 

* Christianity is at bottom a religion of entire unselfishness ; but, through 
conceptions snch as those mentioned above, it has assumed in many the crassest 
and most intense selfishness. 


such trifling matters, that seed-time and summer and harvest may 
be past, yet these ripest spiritual fruits appear without the gradual 
unfolding which the slow progress of the ages brings ? Is heaven a 
dream, or sort of gay pleasure-ground, into the right of which one 
may fall quite as accidentally as one does sometimes into an earthly 
heritage, that we should think any spirit, however earthborn, equally 
ready with a child of God's for the felicities and influences of that 
supreme condition of a spiritual life ? For it would seem that a 
condition of existence, rather than a locality to be occupied, is the 
healthier mode of conceiving the future. And if any one on earth 
has found no pleasure in the walks of holiness, in the paths of public 
and private virtue, in intercourse with the Spirit from whom its 
better life proceeds, will hurried concern or change of sphere open 
his vision to the spiritual realities, and quicken his perception and 
delight in these Divine perfections ? We make too violent a break 
between the present and the future life by our unscriptural mode 
of regarding both. We are ever taught to begin the life on earth, 
which begun, will, no doubt, without any anxiety on our part, pass 
into the life beyond, where the same power that communicated it 
will carry on in us throughout eternity, tbe work which it began in 
us in time. It is this life in us, and not a mere eternity of being, 
that is made known in revelation and given to us in Christ. 

The only sense in which Christ can be said to have brought 
"immortality to light," was by shewing us how we may have eternal 
life in sharing His life, which is God's Spirit of love. The light 
He sheds upon this is simply the life He gives us. No one sees 
farther into Hades than before ; it is still Hades. It is still a mys- 
tery that the apostle shews. There is no rift in the blue sky to 
disclose the plains of heaven to the Christian saint, nor cleft in the 
hillside to show the flames of hell to the Christian sinner. There 
has been no little display of selfishness exhibited in Christian 
character, and there can be little doubt that it has its origin in the 
belief that the Bible contains directions to heavenly bliss—a state 
of mind quite similar in kind to that found in the ruder tribes I 
have mentioned, who also have their guide-posts to these supernal 
regions. We have heard the expression, " Prepare to meet thy 
God," often handled by the Christian preacher; but it is almost 
invariably interpreted as a call to make ready for death, that heaven 
may be won and hell escaped. We have need truly to prepare to 
meet our God, for every day we all meet Him, and with such sorry 
preparation. Christian deathbeds, as a rule, have lost much of 


the grandeur and calm and sweet assurance of the ancient pagans 
or the modern philosophers, because many Christians are so eager 
to know what is beyond, and to have an assurance of their personal 
safety. This f everishness about the to-morrow of our spirits would 
be much allayed if the conception of revelation was more truly taken 
hold of and vitally accepted. We should never, possibly, be able to 
regard a change so thorough with equal composure at all times, but 
it is also true that by no reaching to immortality can we have it ; by 
living as Christ has enabled us to do through His revelation, we can 
never lose it. 

Some would have it that Christianity is a synthesis of certain 
very puzzling antinomies; others that our knowledge in spiritual 
matters is acquired by sensible perception raised up to con- 
tradictory formulae of true or false. But antinomies are no more 
essential in revelation than elsewhere, nor can we see that it helps 
us in any way out of these difficulties. As we said of the mysteries, 
the Bible may give rise to antinomies of its own, and include some 
which existed independently of it. Free will and necessity may be 
given as an example of the latter kind, the Church doctrine of the 
Trinity as a sample of the former. Many of these antinomies, it 
should be observed, are the result of a philosophical mode of stating 
spiritual truth rather than the substance of revelation itself. Like 
so many of the mysteries, they are the fruits of speculation, either 
by theological writers in the Bible, or out of it. Christ, and this is 
worth pondering, does not address the speculative intellect. He 
directs Himself to the religious element in man, and the profoundest 
truths in Scripture revelation — its highest principles, are no anti- 
nomies to him who knoweth by doing. I do not except the state- 
ment, " I and My Father are one," which might have less the look 
of an antinomy if taken along with remarks such as the following . 
" I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in 
one." " That . . . He might gather together in one all things 
in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth ; even 
in Him." " The Son also Himself shall be subject unto Him, . . . 
that God may be all in all." " He that keepeth His commandments 
dwelleth in Him, and He in him." Take these and other so-called 
antinomies, and to mere metaphysics and psychology they are worse 
than antinomies, — they are absolute confusion ; but they are not so 
to the religious consciousness. They are spirit and life. It was 
from the action of philosophy that the theory of predestination origi- 
nated, and it was under it that it was developed ; it was from the 


same source that the Pelagian theory sprang and shaped itself. 
Scripture is not responsible for the antinomy, neither does it supply 
the philosophical solution. Life, here, as elsewhere, is the only 
solution; "My Father worketh hitherto and I work," taken with 
the injunction, " work out your salvation with fear and trembling : 
for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His 
good pleasure," is neither a contradictory nor an antinomy, but a 
statement of fact. Contradictory equals is and is not, and this where 
both the terms in the contradiction are known to us. Contradic- 
tories are of two terms, of which each, in our experience, excludes 
the other in our understanding ; they are probably the result of a 
very general law in mental life, viz., inseparable association. Why 
are is and is not contradictory P Simply we take it, because our 
constant and invariable experience has made them so. Where, then, 
is the contradictory in free will and necessity, e.g., both of which 
seem stated with equal precision in the Bible, according to philo- 
sophical reading P In the first place, it is not, " I am free and not 
free." Necessity cannot be brought into any such antagonism with 
free will. But, apart from this, free will and necessity, as they 
are termed, do not exclude each other in our experience, and cannot, 
therefore, contradict each other. The fact is, we find the states of 
mind which these words are intended to describe, always combined 
in our experience, and through this constant combination, by the 
operation of the law before mentioned, indissolubly connected as a 
condition of mind prior to action. What are they then ? They are 
two synchronous states of mind invariably recurring together as 
antecedents to some other state. 

But what of the other so-called antinomy regarding the supreme 
idea in Scripture, formulated in theology as the Trinity : there are 
three persons and one God P There can be very little doubt that 
theology has here, as in many other cases, too rashly applied her 
logic. We ought, of course, to take the explanation which accom- 
panies such a statement ; and from this explanation we are aware 
that no contradictory is intended in the ancient creed in the sense 
of one term excluding the other. When it is said, God is three 
and one, it does not mean, God is one and not one. But when 
men bring such truths under the category of the understanding, 
we may expect that they will be looked at by some in tlie light 
of facts based upon sensation and intellection, which are the ground- 
work of the logical understanding. It has been thought that what 
are designated antinomies have one part which always looks to 


God, and another that looks to man. The same may be said of 
every truth, however, for all things have a Godward look. The 
misfortune about antinomies is, that they do not always have such 
a luminous object as God to which they turn. What we have 
seen to be the revealed knowledge of God has no relation to an- 
tinomies, either in itself considered, or in its mode of perception, 
which we shall have occasion to shew is not through the logical 
understanding — the sphere of the contradictory and of antinomies. 
A more correct view of what is revealed, will place these antino- 
mies in their proper place. When we learn to know that He is 
spiritually discerned, they may be dissolved, or at least shown to 
be harmonised in religious experience by a spiritual intuition. Not 
that any miracle of knowledge is worked in the spiritual sphere any 
more than in the natural, but that these antinomies are not more 
concerned with the one than the other. Are there no antinomies in 
spiritual truth then P Yes and no. Yes, to the logical understand- 
ing ; no, to the religious apprehension, which is the faculty immedi- 
ately addressed in revelation. Many of these apparently dualistic 
truths may spring from the development of Scripture revelation 
when subjected to reflection (just as they have done in ordinary 
experiences) presenting to our minds the appearance of two parallel 
lines that never seem to meet, extend them as far as we may. We 
feel, however, that these point to a higher union, but it does not 
come within the scope of revelation, as such, to effect this conse- 
quence. When we shall see Him, and know as we are known, 
these mysteries of intelligence may find their known expression, 
and that will be God. 

Bunsen speaks of a metaphysical element in Hebrew religious 
consciousness, but the phrase is not free from inexactness. There 
were many elements in their religious conceptions, as is apparent 
in their literature, and with them as with others, it may be true 
what Bunsen says, that the highest subject of thought was the Bearch 
after the solution of the deepest mysteries, the relation of the Divine 
with the human. If by " metaphysical element " and " deepest 
mysteries," however, be meant the abstractions of philosophers and 
schoolmen, there never could be a greater misrepresentation of the 
Hebrew mind. The entire development of the national thought, as 
shewn in its literature and its full manifestation in Christ, is opposed 
to all that can be called mystical or even metaphysical. Their cry 
was after something more vital. David was a true Israelite, and 
made a true Israelitish speech when he said, " As the hart panteth 


after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, God." 
That I might see Thee, was the longing of a spiritual nature after 
the spring of its life. When God asked them to seek His face, it 
was no absolute infinite entity that was thought of when the poet 
replied, " Thy face, Lord, will I seek." It was still the knowledge 
of God and His fatherly love and will that they were striving after. 
This was what God was teaching them until they came to know 
that He pitied them " as a father pitieth his children." But there 
certainly existed deepest mysteries for them, which, although no 
subject of revelation, proved a powerful attraction for a contempla- 
tive religious Hebrew mind. The writer of the Book of Job felt this 
burden of the mystery, so did the "preacher." Even to the verge 
of scepticism the psalm- writers breathe forth suppressed wails over 
human life and death, or burst out into indignant questioning. 
Prophets as well as apostles, in many cases, had to be content with 
thinking that what they knew not now they would know hereafter. 
Great outstanding problems were seen by these men, but their 
solutions were not forthcoming. Evil is a terrible mystery with 
which they coped in vain, and its origin and nature are no clearer 
to us than to the Jew.* On either side of revelation, as well as 
within it, there is plainly mystery. Genesis has a look into the 
infinite past, but all it says is " God." The Revelation of St. John 
has a look into the interminable future, and all it says is " God." 
Between the Book of Genesis and the Apocalypse we are told what 
God is ; but how He is, we know as little as if no revelation had 
come to us. This knowledge of God, which is life, together with 
our experience, must work out the rest. Spiritual life, and the means 
to this life, are what the Bible contains. 

In the resuscitation of the old belief by Moses we have sub- 
stantially the sum of Christ's revelation to man : a God of love 
seeking the love of man, that His life may be in them, and His will 
be done by them. He was even then a God shewing mercy unto 
thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments. 
It is in this that we can see the unbroken unity that pervades the 
Bible. Its many parts do not certainly with equal precision reveal 
God, but they all tend in some degree to deepen in us the knowledge 
" which passeth knowledge." It is the same Spirit from first to 
last, and the same revelation that it brings home to our souls. To 

* Their earliest traditions, as we see in the story about Eye and the serpent, 
turned upon this great question. 


know God, that we may fear Him, is what the prophets labour and 
pray for. The darkest times among the Jews are those in which 
there is no knowledge of God in the land ; the millennium of pro- 
phecy is when all men shall know the Lord. By knowledge cometh 
reverence of Him, or godly fear, which is the germ of perfect love. 
Those that know Him shall love Him : we love Him because He 
first loved us. Those that fear Him shall know Him : " the secret of 
the Lord is with them that fear Him." It was this and no mystical 
or metaphysical ens that Job saw when he said, " Now mine eye 
seeth Thee." It was such a vision that the psalmist prayed for, 
" to see thy power and thy glory as I have seen Thee ;" a vision 
followed by the necessary consequences of self abasement or a desire 
to be perfect as God is perfect. This is the only kind of knowledge* 
of God that can give any intelligible meaning to the profound words 
of John : " Beloved, now are we the sons of God ; and it doth not 
yet appear what we shall be : but we know that when it doth appear, 
we shall be like Him ;" and why like Him P " for," he continues, " we 
shall see Him as He is." 

How intimately Christianity is connected with what was best and 
vital in Judaism may be seen in the attitude of Christ towards the 
older revelation. It is, as I already had occasion to notice, no abso- 
lutely new revelation that He brings, but a clearer manifestation of 
the old in the first place. His purpose was not destruction but fulfil- 
ment, or, as we now say, development. When the scribe of whom I 
have already spoken came to Jesus with a question, Christ did not 
give him an answer that was in any way strange. He refers him to 
Moses, whose commandment could never become obsolete, although 
it might well become plainer and fuller as seen in Him who is the 
light of the world. He is thus a fulfilment of the hope, " In Thy 
light shall we see light" Perhaps the best hint we have of what 
Christ considered His true position in religious development to have 
been, is to be found in the concluding chapter of Luke's gospel, 
where He traces the stream of spiritual life through Moses and the 
prophets down to Himself : " He expounded unto them in all the 
Scriptures the things concerning Himself." An exposition, I imagine, 
including many more passages, and most likely involving other 
trains of thought, than those usually given in Bible references and 
forming the staple of testimony too commonly received as the sole 
witness to Christ in the Old Testament scriptures, in the face of His 
general statement, " they are they which testify of Me." 

A great deal of what I cannot but think is mere sentiment, is 



often written about the connection of Greece, and paganism generally, 
with Christianity. One can surely hold to the evidence of a strict 
development of spiritual truth through Judaism without, as some 
suppose, laying oneself open to the charge of indifference and apathy 
to pagan thought. It is no question of admiration of the one or the 
other, but simply a question of fact. Pagan thought may be, in the 
estimation of some, richer and nobler than either Judaistic or pri- 
mitive Christian thought, or, in the opinion of others, the reverse 
may be true ; but neither position has any bearing upon our present 
question. Mr. B. H. Hutton may be taken, in our country, as a fair 
modern exponent of the connection between Christianity and pagan- 
ism. In an essay published along with some others by Mr. Marti- 
neau, he lays down the position that Jewish history brings out the 
personality of God, other history the Divine capacities of man ; and 
that, therefore, co-operation of different natures was needed for the 
fulfilment of revelation. The old revelation gives us the presence of 
a pure will among the Jews, which Greece could not accept because 
it saw a Divine in the human and yearned for an ideal. Christ ful- 
filled both the pure moral will and the ideal perfection. With refer- 
ence to this, I must say that, I do not know about the personality 
of God being brought out in Jewish history, but certainly the 
Divine capacities of man are written on it with fully more plain- 
ness than on any other history. In His image was man made. " I 
have said, Te are gods, and all of you are children of the most 
High." God is reported as saying to Pharaoh, " Israel is My son." 
And were not the Jews in some way a peculiar people, a holy 
nation, living with God in paternal and filial relationship, and in a 
measure exhibiting the truth that Christ came to set forth more 
clearly, that God loved men so much as to call them His children ? 
The declaration in the New Testament is a true development of 
Jewish spiritual life and thought, that "as many as received" 
Christ, " to them gave He power to become the sons of God." The 
desire for God and the knowledge of Him, so evident in Hebrew 
literature, show how deep was the feeling of capacity for the 
spiritual in a people, whose earliest story tells how their ancestors 
attempted to become as " gods, knowing good and evil." The more 
sweeping statement of this relation to paganism is that which I give 
in the words of Henry More, but the substance of which forms still 
the subject of Hulsean and other lectureships : " Christianity is not 
only the complement and perfection of Judaism, but also of uni- 
versal paganism ; the sum or substance of whatever was considerable 



in any religion being comprehended in Christ's gospel." The ex- 
amples given by such thinkers of this summing up of paganism by 
Christianity are the following, — Christ's birth, crucifixion, resurrec- 
tion, apotheosis, overthrowing of Satan, and judgment attended by 
reward of the good, and punishment of the bad. 

But, not only are the fundamental ideas (and it is with these 
we have to do in discussing Christianity as a separate phenomenon) 
in Christian revelation independent of pagan influences, and separ- 
able from the common ground here alluded to by More, the whole 
attitude of thought in the one is unlike that in the other. There 
are paganisms in the Bible, just as there are in it metaphysics, 
mysteries, physics, ethics, ethnologies, myths, and many other things ; 
but the paganism is not in the spiritual revelation, which is the 
special content of the Bible, but rather in, what I may call, the 
general culture of the various periods in which the Bible was 
composed, and which is a natural concomitant of an historical 
revelation. As a record, however, of a true and genuine spiritual 
revelation, it is a light shining in a dark place. 



" If we lire truly, we shall see truly." 

The Bible being a record in human language and with national 
colourings, radiating from a past era in history, we must necessarily 
get at whatever it may contain of truth, spiritual or otherwise, 
primarily through the forms of language. At the very outset, it is 
proper to notice that this collection of books is to be approached 
like other books, in whatever other way we may have to show that 
it can alone be truly apprehended. The Bible as it stands is no 
miraculous magical collection of vocables or sentences, which work a 
charm in some mysterious manner. We shall afterwards see that 
it is related on its human side to many sciences. It presupposes 
grammatical and historical knowledge, and demands philology and 
general scholarship of a very high order, for its full historical com- 
prehension, and for a correct view of its varied contents. There is 
no science or branch of inquiry, perhaps, at least none that bear 
npon moral, mental, or social questions, but might be applied to it 
with advantage, either in interpreting its teaching or in criticising 
its multiform records. It is all the more necessary to call attention 
to this, lest, in the treatment of the method of what has been seen 
to be the special revelation in Scripture, there should be thought to 
be a latent sympathy on our part with those who ignorantly imagine, 
that Scripture is its own light. We have no desire to cry up a new 
light, or 

" A lib'ral art that costs no pains 
Of study, industry, or brains." 

There has been some confusion, both with those who have asserted 
this too generally, and those who have laughed at the 

" dark-lanthorn of the Spirit, 
Which none see by but those that bear it." 

We have previously noticed the tendency to make mistakes in 
reasonings from analogy ; nevertheless, an approximate comparison 
may at least be made on this subject between natural light, and 
the so-called spiritual light. It is necessary to remember, however, 


that it is no more than an approximation. The rays of the sun 
may be said, vulgarly, to be visible by their own light ; but when 
we say so, we are not supposed to have exhausted all that may 
be known regarding them. We only state that this outward pheno- 
menon harmonises naturally with our physical constitution ; that, 
independent of all scientific theories, light affects us so and so. But 
no one who cared for his reputation as a man of sense, would 
maintain that simply by basking in the sun, and enjoying its vivi- 
fying and pleasant influences, he could discover all the properties of 
light. We may be nourished by its beneficent beams, and yet be 
ignorant of the curvature of its rays as they pass through the atmo- 
sphere, and which determines for us the places of distant objects. 
Even so may a spiritual life be sustained by the Sun of Righteous- 
ness in those who have been irradiated by His beams. Many may 
well be gladdened by His cheering light, to whom historical inquiry 
and philological research are as strange as are the widospreading 
investigations on the properties of natural light, its mode of propa- 
gation, the origin of its colour, and its rate of velocity, — questions, 
some of which are dependent on recondite mathematical truths 
and celestial observations, which in their turn affect so many other 
branches of physical science, as to entitle them, in the estimation of 
some, to a principal place in the connection of the physical sciences. 
It is not improbable that there is a spiritual sense, or a kind of 
spiritual instinct of life, which assimilates to itself whatever is fitted 
tot sustain it. And, thus, it may very readily come to pass in re- 
ligion as in nature, that many may perceive and embrace a spiritual 
truth, into whose origin and growth they could neither philosophi- 
cally, nor otherwise investigate. Discernment of these things is not 
always proportioned to subtlety of intellect or power of speculative 
and abstract thought, but more frequently to healthiness of that 
kind of life which the sphere of truth infolds, whether that be 
natural, moral, or spiritual. But when I say so, I insist, on the 
other hand, on the scientific side of physical facts. And so with 
the Bible. While, perhaps, claiming no special science in itself, and 
while, as we may afterwards see, not permitting of a scientific 
statement of its special truths in the usual sense in which theology 
takes it, there are likewise in the Bible matters to which many 
separate sciences can be applied, and a complete and thorough 
knowledge of which cannot be attained in any other way than 
through a series of related sciences. What is, for example, human- 
istic, or simply historical, mythological, moral, or quasi-scientific 


in the Scripture record is matter of undoubted science, and can 
only be understood by scientific methods. 

To some extent, then, the record of revelation is dependent on 
scientific processes for its full elucidation. It does not affect the 
question at all that these branches of inquiry are Jewish, and mixed 
up with other and spiritual truths. It is all the more necessary that 
there should be a winnowing and thoroughly good sifting of the one 
from the other. In order to see the necessity for scientific method 
in this connection, one has only to think of the linguistic difficulties 
that have had to be encountered, and that remain to be mastered, 
before the manifestation of the Divine, which lies bedded in the an- 
cient tongues, can dawn upon the minds and hearts of all. And this 
is only an elementary difficulty. The operations of nature are not 
at first and without labour perceived by us. The methods of any 
natural process require repeated observation and experiment before 
they will unveil themselves. The records of the past in the uni- 
versal history of the race, and in the history of our globe, as well 
as in the history of revelation, are dependent on other inquiries in 
some measure for their explanation. Whether the special contents 
of revelation are in themselves related to other forms of truth re- 
mains to be considered ; but that we are indebted to other sciences 
for admission into these contents as they are presented to us, seems 
beyond question. These sciences, we shall see, will help us to the 
solution of what is no unimportant problem in religious, as well as 
common life, viz., to know that in the Bible in which our spiritual 
life consists, by enabling us to distinguish it from that in which it 
does not consist. 

But this is merely introductory. The contents of Scripture in 
their most distinctive features profess to be the record of a mani- 
festation of spiritual relations, and to know these the sciences can- 
not help us. They only "make ruptures through the outward 
wall of God's temple, and break into holy ground ;" but those who 
thus break through the wall may learn no more there than they 
have done in the physical universe. The spiritual may be about 
them, as we doubt not it always is ; but it is only spiritually dis- 
cerned, not intellectually apprehended. We know that it is very 
usual to regard Scripture revelation as intellectual products of a 
spiritual sphere, and to be approached by this side of our nature. 
This is precisely the view that had to be considered in looking at 
the kosmical revelation. The objections that are good against the 
search for the spiritual in nature through intellectual processes are 


equally good against the search for the same kind of facts by a like 
process in the Bible, or indeed anywhere. It is the order of truth, 
and not its locality, if we may say so, that determines the method 
of its discernment. In the case under consideration, we shall try 
in rain to apprehend by one faculty that which is only perceptible 
by another ; or we shall probably, in as vain a manner, seek for a 
class of phenomena in a sphere distinct from that in which they 
belong, or which, if found in a foreign sphere, require to be detected 
and separated. The first attempt very much resembles a man trying 
to discriminate oolour by hearing ; the second is very like a man 
seeking facts of consciousness, not in his mental experiences or 
those of others, but in the order of what is outward and objective. 

We have already seen that there are facts and relations appealing 
to what is called, for want of a better name, the spiritual life of man. 
Some call this capacity in man a spiritual sensation, and although 
there is no need to quarrel about names when the things signified are 
the same, there are associations and consequent positions bound up 
with the term sensation, that cannot well be got rid of, and which, 
in spite of ourselves, tend to obscure our notion of spiritual percep- 
tion, by confusing it with sensible perception. The relations of God 
to man unveiled to us in the Bible are of the nature above described. 
These spiritual relations, like the relations between us and our fellow 
men, for example, are real. That we apprehend one sphere of being 
by a sense experience, and perceive its relations by corresponding 
faculties, is no reason why another sphere of being dealing with 
another set of relations should appeal to the same experience, and be 
subject to the action of the same faculties. Nor is it only that the 
distinctive contents of Scripture revelation are represented in such 
a manner and in such relations as only to be apprehensible in the 
way now mentioned, but the method itself is thus given in Scripture 
as the only one by which a partial knowledge of its contents is 
gained by man here, and by the perfecting of which hereafter a 
knowledge proportionately perfect will be acquired. If we are to 
consult the Bible for the purpose of understanding the special cha- 
racter of its contents, we should likewise consult it in order to know 
the true and proper method of perceiving these contents. And this 
is stated by many men in both Scriptures. Psalm oxix., from verses 
97 to 104, gives us in several expressions a kind of organon of 
Divine knowledge : " Thou through Thy commandments hast made 
me wiser than mine enemies : for they are ever with me." " I 
understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts." 



" Through Thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every 
false way." The secret of all this knowledge and understanding 
lies in the exclamation at the beginning of this versified form of 
Divine dialectic. " Oh how love I thy law ! " It is the same 
method that is taught in Deuteronomy (iv. 6) : " Keep therefore and 
do them [God's statutes], for this is your wisdom and your under- 
standing." It is this also which is given in the noblest of many 
noble passages in the book of Job : " where shall wisdom be found ? 
and where is the place of understanding P " " The fear of the Lord, 
that is wisdom ; and to depart from evil is understanding." The 
collector of Hebrew wisdom does not forget this fundamental con- 
dition of the highest form of it : " the fear of the Lord is the 
beginning of knowledge," a fear which we have seen is the begin- 
ning of the love that ultimately casts it out. And these are but 
various forms of the same method that Christ proclaimed : he that 
hungereth shall be filled ; " not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, 
Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the 
will of My Father which is in heaven." And the kingdom of heaven, 
in Christ's meaning of it, implies all that can be included in a 
knowledge of God and participation in His life.* The most memo- 
rable, as being perhaps the most exact statement of this method, is 
given in the gospel according to John, who was also, as will be seen 
from the letter that bears his name, the best exponent of the method. 
The statement to which I refer is in these words, " If any man will 
do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." To this formula may be 
reduced all the sayings on the subject that have been quoted from 
the Old Testament, as well as the utterances of the apostles who 
touched upon the " fundamental principles of the Divine science." 
We are too much in the habit of regarding truth, in itself considered) 
as an abstraction, forgetting that the abstract is in reality only a 
form in which we hold the various presentations of a sense-given 
experience. t The Bible contents, however, so far from being neces- 
sarily apprehended in this way, are pre-eminently something of a 
quickening force, and only apprehensible by a life corresponding to 
the teaching given. It is the revelation of a mode of spiritual exis- 
tence, and the communication of a life-principle, with which the 

* Entering into the kingdom, fundamentally at least, is sharing in the spiritual 
character and life of Christ. 

f It must have struck many that the habit of philosophical abstraction, use- 
ful and necessary as it is, hinders us sometimes as effectually from the full per- 
ception of truth as it aids us at other times in its comprehension. 


contents of Scripture are ultimately concerned. What Kant, there- 
fore, says of ethics is true of revelation, that it starts with a principle 
of acting, and is not, as he maintains, distinguished from ethics in 
starting with a principle of believing. Having primary reference 
to the nature of God, it is not determinable " by categories of exis- 
tence, bnt only by predicates of our activities." This is the real 
meaning of the new birth, which is preliminary to seeing the king- 
dom of heaven and growth in the new life, upon which a deeper in- 
sight into the nature of this kingdom depends. " Ye will not come to 
Me, that ye might have life " is the key to all Christ's proclamations. 
This is the explanation of His mode of setting forth His message 
to men : Follow Me ; enter in at the strait gate ; come unto Me ; if 
any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink ; I am the bread of 
life; I am the . . . life. His whole aim was directed to awaken 
men's spirits by direct appeals to the spiritual instincts that slumbered 
in them and through presentations of the doings of God, by the ac- 
tive appropriation of which the character of God should become 
gradually known to men. There is a greater significance than we 
often think of in the Old Testament description of the man with 
whom God dwells : the man of a humble and contrite spirit, and who 
tremble th at His word. The avenue of Divine knowledge is thus 
apart and distinct from the medium of all sensible knowledge what- 
soever. In being a spiritual life-principle, it is not to be confounded 
with a series of regulative truths any more than with an order of 
speculative truth, nor does intuitional truth or intuitive perception 
properly describe the knowledge or the method of its perception. 

It has been described by some as a regulative knowledge. Regu- 
lative knowledge, if I rightly understand the kind of knowledge 
intended by the phrase, is a knowledge the practical value alone of 
which we can ascertain, but the truth or falsehood of which is not 
a subject of inquiry for us. It is something given us, the nature 
of which we need never expect to know by intellectual processes, and 
something, therefore, it is concluded, that cannot be known by us in 
any other way. It is a knowledge, accordingly, that we must simply 
accept as a guide for our conduct through life, and hence its name. 
This regulative knowledge may thus be purely arbitrary in its 
nature. It is, at least so far as we are concerned, a set of discon- 
nected rules to be received without question. It contains nothing 
which we may aspire to know truly. The answer to those who 
indulge in such aspirations usually is that finite goodness may not 
be the same as infinite goodness ; but in whatever way the latter 

p 2 


may differ from the former, and whatever may be the spiritual reg- 
ulations enforced by the latter, our duty is to acquiesce in the 
directory furnished to us. Regulative knowledge appears simply 
to be a conventional proclamation of directions that may, or may not, 
have a basis in fact and reason. They are, as described, by their 
nature non-progressive; at all events they are not inherently or 
organically progressive. The only way in whioh they admit of ad- 
vance must be by a kind of external mechanical addition. Our 
knowledge, likewise, of these practical rules, if we can call that a 
knowledge which in reality can be nothing more than an act of 
memory, will not possess the common feature of all knowledge, that 
of growth. As such truths were at the first they remain to the last, 
unless a supplement be made to them from without. As Mr. Man- 
sel says in his Bampton Lecture, " no one faculty of mind conveys 
direct knowledge of the absolute; a revelation from God cannot con- 
tain anything unwise or unrighteous, but we cannot estimate these 
exactly." How we can pronounce such a judgment, when the ability 
of forming one is denied us is not explained by the lecturer. 

Speculative knowledge of Divine things, and knowledge of a 
Divine life are different, not so much from the non-progressive 
nature of so-called speculative knowledge of the Divine in itself, 
as from the fact that here speculative knowledge transcends ex- 
perience, while the method of knowing by doing, keeps within the 
bounds in which alone any knowledge is possible, viz., personal 
consciousness. It is sometimes said, that the highest term of re- 
velation was always known, but that the connotation is gradually 
unfolded. There is some confusion, however, in the use of such 
phraseology. We ourselves certainly grow in this Divine know- 
ledge, and the history of revelation shows a similar progression up 
to the highest point, yet attained, in Christ, otherwise the method 
would be a poor one, if not actually false. It has not been, how- 
ever, by rules of logic, nor by intellectual notation, that this pro- 
gress has been made ; since in what is purely spiritual we know no 
more now intellectually of the metaphysical essence of its subject- 
matter than at the beginning. The connotative meanings of spirit- 
ual ideas, if they are to be called such, have not become known 
by excogitation, but by faith. The spiritual relations into which 
God has entered with man are the only characters of His nature 
that we know of, and the only ones that we need care to know. 
They are relations that concern our spiritual activity, not our specu- 
lative faculties. We perceive them at first by a function of spiritual 


life, and their farther knowledge is the result of an assimilated like- 
ness in ns to that which is known. Speculative knowledge in theo- 
logy is in the main, deductions from certain postulates of the in- 
tellect, and is a knowledge about God. The knowledge which the 
method here spoken of gives, is a knowledge of His life, acquired 
through a spirit in which this life dwells. A knowledge of the 
Divine life as manifest in His relations to men can never be known * 
otherwise than as these relations are experienced in onrselves. Only 
so far as the God-life is in us do we know God. Up to the measure 
of His fulness in us may we know Him, but no further. Thus, for 
example, it is said, God is love ; but it is not necessary to get specu- 
latively at the essence of love, and through that at the essence of 
God. We must ourselves experience the nature of this Divine love 
if we are to know His love. He who was in the bosom of the Father 
is said alone to have known Him ; and as we approximate to this 
mode of life which Christ has made possible for us, so will the same 
thing be said of us. If we are to call questions in spiritual truth 
by the name of problems, we can only say that their solution to be 
a solution through practice, and not through logic. 

The fixity of these ideas in the mere understanding, gives us no 
hope of a better comprehension of them by speculative means. 
But, by the method of assimilation through similarity of life, or by 
the predicates of activity, there is a continuous search with an ad- 
vancing knowledge, until the end contemplated is realised — full 
vision and perfected life being synchronous. This is the face to 
face knowledge, of which Paul speaks, after the darkened medium 
is gone. The source of that knowledge of the profound truths of 
the spiritual life and the Divine character by John was in the ful- 
ness of the new Spirit in himself. When John speaks of God being 
love, he has attained to a true and intimate acquaintance of this 
Spirit in God, by the method which he himself has given us. John 
did not, as some theologians would have us believe, — Brown, e.g., in 
his " Divine Analogy," and followed in more recent times, and by 
better philosophers, — consider the knowledge of spiritual things as 
consisting in a conception of them by resemblance and representa- 
tion only, and not in the least minute perception of the things 
themselves or any part of them. As Brown states it, " The Divine 
reality and true nature of the mysteries appear as little to us now 
after the revelation as they did before ; it is only remote similitude 
or resemblance which appears to us." Again, he says we do not 
receive the true nature of the doctrines : " such a revelation could 


not be unless we have faculties to receive such." He sums up his 
method (and we take him as fairly representative of this type of 
thought) by illustrating revelation in the case of a blind man to 
whom a knowledge of colour is conveyed through another sense, 
say feeling. Yet the man is not to think that he sees with his eyes 
so as to have a partial view of colour. The ideas are distinct, and 
only bear resemblance or analogy. " He hath therefore nothing to 
do but to submit to his informers in full conviction of his total 
want of sight."* 

There seems a certain satisfaction to some minds in acquiescing 
spiritually in this hopeless blindness, but it is not quite so easy for 
others to rest content without the least glimpse of light, espec- 
ially when told by informers, and when conscious in themselves 
that they have seen the light. In the face of Christ's declaration : 
" he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have 
the light of life," we do not see how any one can counsel another, 
because he is in the midst of thick darkness, to adhere to the most 
apt symbols of things which are utterly imperceptible. We do not 
now ask, How, if the things are so utterly imperceptible, apt symbols 
of them could have originated, or how we can have any certainty 
that they are apt P If we are at the mercy of our informers, what 
better authority have our informers than we have ? Had they the 
eyesight, which we have not, to see the light, and from cognate 
senses to construct apt symbols for us who are spiritually blind? 
And if they had the sense, or whatever else we may agree to call 
it, what hinders that we should have it too P That may be let pass, 
but such a position as the one now under review, rests upon the 
erroneous supposition that revelation is given us as a powerful 
conviction of our spiritual incapacity — that it is a communication 
that certain things are, but that we cannot realise them. Surely 
a strange rendering of revelation! If it is an unveiling of some- 
thing, it is a quite unnecessary, or at least a most imperfect act, unless 
there be faculties to which this is unveiled. 

What interest, so far as we are concerned, would it excite in us 
although heaven and earth were one constant birth of visual love- 
liness, if our sense of sight were unaffected, and all these delicate 
intimations reached us through our touch, and our aptest symbols 

* Mr. Manscl's position in the Bampton Lectures rests more upon Brown's 
4 Divine Analogy " and that mode of thought than has anywhere been no- 


for them, authoritatively conveyed, were smoothness or roughness 
or some other tactual experience ? If knowledge at one entrance 
be quite shut out, it will not come in, in any kind of fulness, by 
another door. If revealed truth be not truly revealed to us, we 
could very well dispense with such a revelation. If we are working 
merely with some arbitrary symbols, and not with the deepest and 
most vital spiritual realities, we may as well discard this second- 
hand instruction and conventional arrangement, and live in accord- 
ance with the sensible facts of an external world, and the men and 
women in it. In the latter case, we can enjoy a healthy, and if we 
will, progressive physical, intellectual, and moral life, by conforming 
ourselves to our conditions; in the former there can be no life, 
since there are no certain vital conditions, but only an intellectual 
symbolism, to which our conceptions alone, and not our spiritual 
nature may conform. The root error of a system of thought that 
lands us among abstractions, and gives us shows for realities, lies in 
the speculative method which it applies to Divine truth ; and this 
method arises from a mistaken idea of the nature of that truth as 
metaphysical, and not moral or spiritual. As it is put, we cannot 
know the inherent attributes of Gk>d, because totally different in kind 
from ours, inasmuch as His essence or substance is pure spirit. It 
is not, however, of such an " unknown God " that the Bible speaks, 
but of One whose attributes are made known and knowable by us, 
in the degree in which we share them through His communicated 
life. " Hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His com- 
mandments." There is no doubt about it but what may be put at 
rest. John Smith might well say of such attempts to hide God, 
that " we might well spare our labour when we so industriously 
endeavour to find something in God that might produce the effect of 
some other passion in us." If we postulate a certain kind of know- 
ledge as revealed, we must be consistent with the method of ac- 
quiring it ; but we must see that our postulate is according to fact, 
to which all postulates must ultimately conform. The saying of 
Christ, that if the Jews continued in His word they should know 
the truth, taken with the declaration that He is the way, the truth, 
and the life — that no man cometh unto the Father but by Him, con- 
tains the knowledge of Divine things, and the true method of this 
knowledge. It is the manifestation of God to the Christ-like in soul. 
Conformity to God's will through the implanting of the Spirit of life 
in Christ will bring the soul into intimate communion with God, and 
prepare it for the manifestation of Himself which Ho gives unto 


those who are " of the Father : " " he that hath My commandments 
and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me ; and he that loveth Me 
shall he loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest 
Myself unto him." The knowledge of God which is alone possible 
and real for us, is the unfolding of His nature to our renewed will. 
We cannot make one step in the Divine knowledge without this ; 
the very elements, " the sincere milk of the word," can in no degree 
be alimentary to the soul that does not desire it as a new-born babe. 
Sanctity of the soul is the condition of the primary knowledge of 
God's character and will, as increasing sanctity in heart and life, is 
the condition of all advancement in it. This is the function through 
whose perfected action complete correspondence between it and its 
object will be effected : " we all, with open face beholding as in a 
glass the glory of the Lord, are changed unto the same image from 
glory to glory." 

It is not surprising that men of pure philosophic temperament 
should have approached the knowledge of God in the Bible through 
the common medium of knowledge, and attempted to construct a 
speculative and transcendental knowledge of His nature and at- 
tributes ; it is surprising, however, that theologians, who also 
declare themselves to be Christians, should have done the same 
thing. Their theological philosophy is a constant contradiction of 
true spiritual experience. It is no incomprehensible essence which 
makes itself known to the Christ-like as it does not unto the world, 
but a living and loving Father, with attributes of character appre- 
ciable and appreciated by the renovated heart, notwithstanding the 
consciousness it has of the perfection of these attributes and of 
its own imperfection. There is a very profound sense in which 
it is true, as has been beautifully said, that " Jesus astonishes and 
overpowers sensual people. They cannot unite Him to history, or 
reconcile Him to themselves. As they come to revere their in- 
tuitions and aspire to live holily, their own piety explains every fact 
and word." As in the observation of nature a faculty by exercise 
gets to know where to look and what to look for, so is it in some 
measure with the method of knowing through a renewed spiritual 
will. It is not, however, a great spiritual inductive method of know- 
ledge with advancing empirical generalisations ; it is rather a sym- 
pathetic knowledge, deepening with the life relations that unite us 
to the subject of it. And this of all kinds of knowledge is that 
which has the most genuine insight. We know the laws of many 
orders of being, but we know nothing of their real habitudes of 


life. We know how this thing and the other thing is — the given 
sum of antecedents that make np the consequent. By a method 
of Divine knowledge we do not know this, bnt we know the life in 
ns to be the life that is in God. We know God, by partaking of 
the Divine nature that comes to ns through Christ. The means 
by which we gain this is by being made conformable unto His death 
— so knowing Him, and the power of His resurrection. And thus 
it is that our life becomes like His, a doing the will of the Father, 
which is the only way of access to Him. Painters, it is said, have 
in some kind of way to become the things they draw, if they mean 
to draw them well ; and to know another man, we all feel that 
something more than mere intelligent observation from without is 
necessary. We see daily how much ignorance of each other exists 
for want of a bond of love and sympathy between men ; and most 
of ns are, it is to be hoped, familiar with the revelations that come 
to us from one with whom we deeply sympathise, — revelations that 
are visible only to the human heart. With all the passages to the 
heart opened by love and sympathy, one man will have glimpses of 
another in an hour which an unsympathetic on-looker, however 
intelligent an observer he may be, could not get in a lifetime. It is 
in the absence of this that our eyes are so often holden when spiritual 
realities are near us, and not from any inherent incapacity in us to 
perceive them, or necessary impossibility in them of becoming known 
to us. With spiritual capacities corresponding to spiritual verities, 
there is no more difficulty conceivable in apprehending a spiritual 
Being, and spiritual relations, than in apprehending physical, or 
mental relations. In the metaphysical sense of being, both are 
beyond our apprehension. The riddles supposed to exist in our 
apprehension of God are simply logical puzzles, and have no exis- 
tence in fact. To say that we cannot know God, because to know 
an infinite Object requires an infinite time in which to know Him, 
is nothing to the point, when we understand properly that the know- 
ledge is of moral or spiritual qualities, which are not commensurate 
with mathematical quantities. And, besides, when we consider the 
method of apprehension, any supposed difficulty of this kind disap- 
pears. While the baffled intellect, after sheer mental effort, may 
ask, who can by searching find out God ? the faithful, religious soul 
can say from experience, the pure in heart shall see Him. 

There is no view of God that shows so distinctly as this method 
of His perception does, the wide difference between the God of the 
New Testament, and the God of primitive belief, of scientific thought, 


or metaphysical speculation. He is no more like the Taaroa of 
Polynesia, or the guardian deity of the Finns, than He resembles the 
Final Cause of theologico-scientific thinking or the Absolute Infinite 
of metaphysics.* The argument from design is as good as the * 
arguments from eternal truths and necessary existences to an eternal 
necessary existing Mind, but none of them demonstrate Ood. It is 
very doubtful, as was before shown, whether design, as commonly 
understood, is the proper expression for the world-plan, and many 
would object to the metaphysics that rests upon intelligible na- 
tures, species, or ideas, which are the subjects of immutable science. 
Such processes bring us no nearer the object of our search. There 
are few, I am persuaded, who can really feel much force in another 
argument which is sometimes used in this connection, and expressed 
in something like the following form : " That which transcends our 
capacity to comprehend must therefore be above our ability to in- 
vent." If this were accepted as an argument, it would prove too 
much, and might bring in with it a whole brood of metaphysics — 
imaginative beings, many of whom are evident inventions, although 
for a long while they resisted any explanation. 

There has been a singular fatality even in the case of Christian 
men in their search after God in nature and in abstract thought. 
If at any time they can hear God's voice there or discern His shape, 
let them cherish the vision and the sound for ever ; but let them 
see to it that is the voice and form of God and not the echo and 
phantasm of man. The highest manifestation which we have of 
God's nature is that of love, the sum of all moral and spiritual per- 
fections. This love, as it includes the desire for the best interests 
of the objects of its love, has holiness as its primary element. If 
the manifestation be thus essentially spiritual, it can only address 
itself to what is spiritual in us. We may see in Christ what was 
the method of His intercourse with the Father. It was through that 
which Ho came to give to us — a pure and holy will. The first 

* These deities ore very like each other in nature as well as origin. Taaroa, 
the uncreate Creator, is no unique personage in barbarous tribes, and Christians 
may profitably compare the Finnish notion of creation and Creator, with some of 
our notions on the same subject, drawn from external observation of the world, 
and supplemented by speculation and otherwise. We have, of course, general- 
ised our notion more than these rude peoples could do theirs, and instead of 
having a guardian deity or genius for every object or every species, we have a 
kind of guardian for the whole round of nature : like their deities, independent 
of it, yet in it, not affected by its decay, yet affecting and controlling it in every 


step to personal knowledge of God manifested to us is the partaking 
of the life which we have in the Son. All other knowledge, although 
it may boast itself a knowledge of God, is but a subjective know- 
ledge intellectually created by us. As we see in Christ on many 
occasions how clear a head comes from a large, well-loving, acting 
heart, how far above all knowing of a thing is living it, so we 
may be certain it is only in like manner that the same intimate 
and certain knowledge of the Father can be attained by us. If the 
heart be at the mercy of some sinful pleasure, it will be dark to all 
these higher things ; but if it be at the beck of what is pure and 
holy and Christ-like, we may have the image of the heavenly re- 
flected there continually, and with greater clearness the more we are 
not hearers of the word only but doers of it. This world lies as 
open to what is spiritual in us as the world with which we are so 
familiar lies open to its appropriate faculties. As many are blind to 
all but a fraction of the latter, so are many equally blind to much of 
the former, which is only to be gained by the inner workings of a 
spiritual life. The highest and deepest religious experience pro- 
duced either by revealed truth or otherwise comes not so much 
from mere mental effort as through a spiritual life, which has shown 
its attachment to Christ by keeping His commandments, and in 
which the Spirit of truth as a consequence dwells. Without a life 
of purity in the Spirit, without being free in some measure from 
pollution, without having our supreme delight in God, and in this 
way having our affections purified through the perfect purity of 
their object, and all the spiritual impulses of the new life excited, 
holy desires and appetences awakened in us, we never can possess 
any true knowledge of God as He is revealed in His word. One 
may know all that metaphysics can teach about a God, or that 
intellect working on nature, or through the contents of the Bible 
even, can extract from these sources, and still be very far from the 
real vision of one's spiritual life. One may travel through the ages 
of the past in search of proof of God's providential dealing with the 
race, or scan futurity for probable hopes of His action in the coming 
times, or listen to the un traversed sea of thought that metaphysicians 
tell us is ever sounding round the utmost verge of knowledge, and yet 
miss the real knowledge of God, if the heart be impure. Speculatively 
one may imagine one knows God, as one may speculate without data 
in other things; but one can never know Him until one has become in 
some degree assimilated to this object of knowledge, and so come to 
it with a sympathetic life. 


The method that places a life elevated and sanctified through 
Christ's love as the only means of knowing God is no vain rhapsody 
of religions superstition, nor is it prompted by any wish to elevate 
what is mystically called the inner light, at the expense of reason, 
but is based upon fact and the representations of Scripture, as well 
as upon the experiences of Christ and His followers, both ancient and 
modern. Nor in thus representing the spiritual contents of Scrip- 
ture, as spiritually discerned, are we moved by any desire to narrow 
culture, rather are we influenced by a desire to widen it. We do not 
see any reason why culture should be confined chiefly or exclusively 
to what is intellectual in man, and the relations perceived thereby, 
nor why this or any other individual element of our nature should 
appropriate the name. There must surely be some training and dis- 
cipline of our spiritual nature, the well-spring of our best actions. 
No one can wish that intellectual improvement should eclipse what 
we may call spiritual education. Culture, as it is generally, and 
with too much limitation understood, is a great boon to man, a 
sweet solace, often a refining power; but we need not therefore think 
the limited conception of it to be the end of beings who are spiritual 
as well as mental. A more intimate knowledge of the external 
world, scientifically and aesthetically, is the result of the culture 
generally included in that name ; the vision of the spiritual — the god- 
like — God Himself, is the fruit of the one we speak of. This last 
kind of culture is the gateway to a knowledge of the highest life we 
have any conception of, by allying our own spiritual life with all 
that is distinctive of it, that is, by having an element instilled into 
the vital forces of our spirits that will gradually purge our hearts 
from all impurity, and make them the home of holiness, and the 
abode of God ; " if a man love Me . . . "We will come unto him, 
and make Our abode with him." 

One test of the truth of this method lies in the fact that those 
who are conscious of this knowledge are likewise conscious that it is 
always dependent on the state of their spiritual life, and feel with 
Paul that the fulness of it is only possible in the future. While the 
battle wages between sin and holiness, while stains of sin soil our pure 
affections, the vision must be proportionately dim, the reflection must 
be in that degree marred. The glass through which we look now 
may ever and anon be darkly clouded by the unsightly breath of im- 
pure desires and sinful emotions. But even now, if we, by the con- 
stant habit of our life, cherish God's presence in our soul, and control 
the movements of our inner life, we shall see clearer and clearer, and 


at last behold the unspeakable glory face to face. And this, as it is 
the supreme joy of a spiritual life, and its sum of knowing, is also 
the consummation of its perfection. The clouds that hide the vision 
now are not- the conditions of consciousness, nor the limitations of 
logical thought, but the clouds of impurity. The only barriers that 
hinder our progress to our destined goal of union with God, and 
knowledge of Him in that union, are not the barriers of inherent in- 
comprehensibility, but the barriers of a sinful and rebellious will, 
which like mountains stand between us and our highest good. This 
method of knowledge through internal similitude of life may be 
thought by some to be open to the objection usually urged against 
spiritual knowledge through feeling, viz., that it renders religion 
subjective in character, uncertain in its doctrine, and individual in its 
constitution ; since, it is argued, feeling is only individual, and conveys 
no information beyond itself and its mode of affection. But, this 
method of knowledge is different from knowledge by feeling, and 
which is usually described as intuitional consciousness. It is not a 
knowledge through any one sense, but through the concurrent action 
of the spiritual life, and is no more individual than that life itself is ; 
and this by its nature is of the widest generality, being God's life in 
Christ. This method does not, as we saw, admit of the least uncer- 
tainty in its doctrines, it provides a sure test whereby we may know 
that we know God, viz., by the fact that we keep His command- 
ments ; its objectivity is unquestionable, inasmuch as both the life 
and the knowledge have their source external to ourselves. 



" Divine truth is better understood as it unfolds itself in the purity of men's 
hearts and lives than in all those subtle niceties in which curious wits may lay 
it forth." 

It has not been possible to tabulate the organon of spiritual truth as 
one can an ordinary scientific organon. There has been brought 
into one view, however, the various expressions of it given by the 
different writers in the Old and New Testaments, to whom a 
spiritual experience was familiar ; and these have been found to 
agree in their method of Divine knowledge, as both a new and 
living way ; new with respect to other methods, which have been 
tried, and living with respect to itself. The apostolic writers are more 
frequent in their statements regarding this Divine philosophy than 
regarding many, other matters. They tell us that without holiness 
no man shall see God, that love alone can apprehend Him whom 
we call infinite love. Their exhortations are in harmony with tho 
statement that the new man is renewed in knowledge: "bo ye trans- 
formed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is 
that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." That which 
was the method of those whose experiences compose the Bible, and 
of Him who is the sum of its teaching, must in principle be our 
method. Any radical alteration cannot be attended with fruitful 
results. The history of thought is a luminous illustration of the 
futility of erroneous methods. For investigation of any kind the 
wise teacher would say, First, method ; and second, method ; and 
again, method. There will never be any permanent advancement in 
Divine knowledge until its method be clearly seen, and fully acted 
upon. It need hardly be said that this is the first step towards any 
satisfactory agreement among Christian thinkers. They may, as they 
have hitherto done, split upon subordinate questions in theology 
without any chance of union, so long as no true point of departure 
is fixed, from which every question alike must be taken up. That 
this point has not yet been decided upon with any unanimity is 
perfectly plain to all who will take the trouble to look at the present 
and past state of religious thought. It is always said that differ- 


ehces may be expected so long as men do not remain mere brutes ; 
various minds breed various opinions. Such a pessimist view of 
thought is most unworthy, and we think utterly false. It is not an 
opinion that would gain a moment's hearing in any respectable 
scientific society, neither would it be reiterated with the approval 
which it constantly receives in religious society, if the subject-matter 
with which the one deals were treated in the same exact method in 
which the subjects that engage the attention of the other are 
handled. The variety, such as it is, does not proceed from the 
various minds, but from the method or methods in which they work. 
Individual idiosyncracy in mental life is wide apart from essential 
contradiction in thought. Nature is full of idiosyncrasies, if wo 
may say so, but there is a vital unity everywhere, although the 
like forces may be embodied in the most various fashions. The 
differences in thought on which we almost congratulate each other, 
are not unity of life in wealth of form ; that could excite nothing 
but pleasure in a thoughtful mind. They are much more radical, 
being in reality the proverbial brood of error. Truth is one, error 
is many ; the results of an erroneous method or methods are, there- 
fore, necessarily numerous. The result of a true method can only 
be one, is the invariable teaching of well-ordered thought and the 
warning of ill-ordered investigation. 

The method which we iiave set forth in the preceding chapter is, 
whether true or false, opposed to one in very high repute, which re- 
gards the contents of Scripture as so closely related on their formal 
side to the facts of science as to be susceptible of scientific treat- 
ment. An opinion of so long standing and so universally acted upon 
cannot, however, escape inquiry. This involves a view of Scripture 
as compared with theology, and really raises the question, is there 
a science of theology as it is generally pursued ? To get any ap- 
proximate answer to this question we must see what science and 
theology are. By theology we do not understand at present what 
has been called natural theology, but that theology which takes the 
Bible as its source. Before we can determine anything about theo- 
logy, we must have some definite conception of the nature of this 
source, as it appears to the theologian. He would agree in saying 
that it was Divine, as distinct from natural. His theology is then 
that theology drawn from the Bible, which is Divine. But what, 
we must ask, is theology conversant with in the view of these who 
cultivate it ? In other words, what is the subject-matter which dis- 
tinguishes it as a branch of inquiry ? what is its \6yos ? Etymo- 


logically of course it would be God ; but we need not keep strictly 
to the mere nomenclature. Theology if not in name, at least in 
intention and plan, is meant to embrace the contents of the Bible. 
Its claim to a distinct existence as a reasoned body of truth, rests on 
the supposition that its source and subject-matter are different from 
those of other forms of truth. One peculiarity of the subject-matter, 
as held by theologians, is that a knowledge of it is naturally unat- 
tainable by man. It is Divinely originated, and so originated, because 
otherwise it is beyond our reach. In short, the truths with which 
theology professedly deals are supersensible truths. Now, let us 
see what science means. Science in its more general and popular 
acceptation may signify knowledge ; but knowledge does not truly 
characterise it. There are many kinds and degrees of knowledge 
which we should scarcely designate by the term science. From ear- 
liest times the great majority of men have lived and died as they 
are now doing, ignorant of science unless by name, but with less 
or more knowledge. We may say, with some, that knowledge is a 
lower form of science, and in ultimate analysis it will very probably 
be found that knowledge is science in progression. But even on 
this view there is a distinction sufficiently pronounced to warrant 
us in marking off the one from the other. Science is the full ex- 
planation to reason of any given sensible phenomena that have come 
under observation ; knowledge is a partial and empirical explanation 
of such. From sensible experience of any given set of phenomena, 
science, through observation and after well-known processes of logic 
produces an explanation of the phenomena — gives the rationale of 
them, the science of them, so that we do not now know merely that 
they are, but also how they are, and can predict with the utmost 
certainty that, the same conjunction of circumstances occurring, the 
same results will follow. Science, then, appears to be the explanation 
of known sensible phenomena, or the formalised expression of the 
relation between these phenomena. 

If we apply this to theological truth as already explained, there 
does not seem to exist such a congruity between science and theo- 
logy as would warrant us in describing the latter as a science. The 
two things seem very distinct. Science is concerned with sensible 
experiences ; theology, according to those who cultivate it, with super- 
sensible. Science is of things known, while theology, if it is a 
science, is, according to most, the science of the unknown j using 
known and unknown with reference to the same faculties. The 
truths of theology, from their nature, are said to be beyond sensible 


experience, and must, therefore, be beyond a form of holding truth 
which is, and only can be, based upon that experience. How can yon 
rationally, taking this in its scientific sense, explain anything that 
according to onr supposition does not come within the domain of 

But, besides, a very good and quite relevant proof of what has just 
been said is to be found in the fact that no such science as theology, 
so far as we are aware, exists. Any one who objects to a conclusion 
from such a negative position must at least show how the thing is 
possible ; and until this is done, and from what we have before us, 
one cannot be far wrong in inferring that it is not possible. What 
are the facts regarding this pseudo-science ? Is it not notorious 
that on every doctrine in theological dogmatics, which is the form 
this science has assumed, so far from finding explanations, as we ex- 
pect to find in ordinary sciences, we find a haze very much more 
impenetrable after the scientific effort than before? Is it not con- 
fessed by almost every candid and unprejudiced mind, that after 
wearied discussions carried on over all Christendom — after endless 
arguments, the conclusion, corollary, and second corollary are un- 
known and unknowable ? Are we not told, if we innocently hazard 
a doubt on some supposed explanation, that it is a mystery, and must 
be taken upon authority P Do not dogmatics merely concentrate 
difficulties, with much ingenuity, into one compact mass P Do they 
not appear to be laboured efforts made by men to show, not the 
power of reason in explaining phenomena, which is the exhibition 
of science, but its irremediable powerlessness P Science, as we have 
said, aids us in making the unknown and the unfamiliar known and 
familiar to us. Theology, if it does not really do the reverse (of 
which we are personally convinced), certainly makes hard sayings 
much harder. Theology has been defined, and will, we think, by 
most of its supporters be considered well defined, as an arrangement 
in due order and dependence of truths in religion, of which we have 
knowledge, so as to show their relation as elements of one organic 
whole. The first thing to be observed here is that this would be no 
science at all, but a compilation and digest of the scattered state- 
ments in the Old and New Testaments on some special subject. And 
this objection does not merely apply to the definition given above, 
but to the actual state of theology. It is no more a science on this 
showing than is a digest of law cases or an historical textbook. 
Classification even in physics is distinguished from science properly 
so-called, . since it proceeds upon technical skill gained through 



science, and is not an exercise of scientific thought. But there is some 
delusion in the description of theology just given. In no collection 
of the statements with which it deals is there order and dependence, 
at least rationally conscious order and logical dependence. How 
can we know that one thing depends upon another when both are 
unknown in their relation to each other P How can we know that 
things are elements of one organic whole when the elements are 
each incognisable, and the whole beyond the conception of the 
faculties that deal with them P In answer to this, it will be said 
that the definition speaks exclusively of truths known; and if 
theology dealt with these there would be nothing more to say. Bat 
it is not proved, nor does it appear possible to prove, that we have a 
knowledge of the truths with which theology deals by the faculties 
related to our logical understanding. The knowledge spoken of in 
the definition is simply, as shown by the result, a verbal knowledge, 
which, however necessary to us, is not all that is intended to be con- 
veyed. Theology never tries to pierce beyond the phrases, nor to 
effect more than a union of their meaning. It is largely concerned 
with getting the mean of a number of grammatical terms, which is 
really no scientific exercise of thought. We might almost as well 
designate a compend and commentary on Plato a science of Pla- 
tology, as designate current systematic theology a science. If one 
takes the ordinary mode in which any important doctrine is induced, 
as it is termed, from Scripture, one feels naturally astonished at the 
idea of science being attached to the worked out theological process. 
We find a fair example of this method in a very recent contribution 
to this science by the late Dr. Crawford, of Edinburgh, in his work 
on the atonement. Among other methods he rejects the historical 
for what he calls humble induction ; and it is a very humble kind of 
induction according to Bacon's view of induction. This method con- 
sists generally in collecting passages in the two great divisions of the 
Bible bearing on the doctrines to be determined, as, e.g., Moses says 
this, Job confirms it, and we find it so many times in John and Paul, 

therefore . Many who follow this plan, we do not say all, do 

not even give it the appearance of induction, since they proceed on 
the assumption that the authors from whom they quote were me- 
chanical instruments in the hands of one Divine penman. An induc- 
tion from this point of view is simply a farce, at least it is a labour 
quite unnecessary and gratuitous. For on the supposition that the 
Bible is inspired in this sense, one statement on a doctrinal point is as 
good as a hundred and one; the additional hundred can have no other 


force than simple reiteration. It can only amount in the end to 
this : because it is written, be it often or seldom, therefore it is. This, 
it need not be said, is quite unlike what it imitates — scientific 
verification. Science pursues its investigation through a series of 
observations, repeatedly tested, and in various forms when it is 
possible to vary the experiments, lest there should be any mistake in 
the observations. In theology each statement is an authoritative 
and final one, and needs no verification. In dogmatic theology, too, 
in spite of the opinion which shall be noticed, we know at the end 
only what we knew at the beginning, if as much. A conclusion 
from induction, on the other hand, as we saw, opens to us an ex- 
planation of something that we did not know. 

This practice in theology of proceeding on an implied, although 
not avowed, conception of the Bible, as above stated, not unfre- 
quently violates all notion of historical development in Scripture, 
by assigning a value to statements in any book at any period in 
the Old Testament equivalent to apparently similar statements in 
any book in the New ; and in so far as theology has led to this, it 
is chargeable with being an obstruction to any scientific considera- 
tion of the Scripture record. In reality, it will be found that a 
dogmatic and scientific view of religion are found to be inconsistent 
with each other. Much violence has been done by this system of 
thought to the Bible as a whole. I do not merely allude to the 
doctrinal bias with which we all approach our Bibles, but to that 
inconsiderate abstraction of words and clauses from their true con- 
nection which dogmatic theology sometimes encourages. The theo- 
logical method is largely dependent on words and phrases; but 
a writer's meaning is not to be gained except from an enlarged 
view of his writings. Instead of this, by concordance or reference 
of some kind, our systematic theologian comes plump upon a clause, 
subordinate, it may be, to the main thought of an elaborate dis- 
course, an ejaculation in a dramatic poem, or an aspiration in an 
ode, and from these incongruous elements some fundamental truth 
in spiritual metaphysics is built up. Nothing would have more 
astonished the mind of the writer of the book of Job than to have 
found that he had contributed by some of his dialogues to the 
most recondite abstractions in the Christian belief of the 1 9th 
century, or the writers of the psalms, that they had been breathing 
forth from their devout souls the Church's creeds. 

There has been very plainly a false analogy at the bottom of 
systematic theology. It has been concluded, without any reference 

Q 2 


to the truths in the Bible and the means of their perception, that 
the process of explaining them is exactly the same as the process 
that holds in sensible perception. Because induction unclasps one 
book, therefore it is thought it will unclasp the other also. Bacon 
had an objection to Divinity, but it is one that will tell equally 
well against science in general : the farther, he thought, you go 
from particulars it is the more dangerous. It is not, however, in 
advancing beyond the particulars so much as in advancing without 
them, which, as he says somewhere, cannot be without supplies by 
supposition and presumption. If these supplies were out off from 
theology, we are afraid it would make a poor show as a reasoned 
body of truth; the body at least would become much emaciated, 
and finally, it is to be hoped, disappear into space. 

Theology in the hands of some has a much higher aim than the 
one I have just noticed. Many supporters of dogma as a science 
are at one with the views already stated in considering much of 
what is called dogmatic teaching anything but scientific. With 
them the generalised meaning of passages is very shallow work ; 
and they contend, that beyond this there is a process of digestion 
by the Christian reason whereby the scattered statements of Scrip- 
ture are formulated into the abstract articles of the creed. Dogma 
is thus the result of the fusion of the concrete truth of Scripture in 
the mould of reason. It is not enough to translate the general 
hints of the Bible into one compact statement, but these hints must 
be worked up into the consciousness of Christians, and being there 
elaborated, it comes forth in a truly rational form, and is then 
equivalent to a scientific statement in being " the rational concep- 
tion of the facts." The result of all this, in the language of Baring 
Gould, is, that what is drawn out of the primary dogmas " follows 
as rigidly as do all the results arrived at by astronomers from the 
doctrine of gravitation." This, at any rate, has more the look of a 
science than the mode which we formerly considered. It affects 
the language and processes of science, and has stages of develop- 
ment like it. It starts with a time when all the truths " were there, 
but in suspension ; to be precipitated into dogmatic formula?, but at 
a later date ; " when " the faith of the early Christians was confined 
to certain facts on which certain hopes were built up." A time 
which, one may parenthetically remark, is much needed again. 
But this condition was, it appears, not enough for men of intellect 
and culture, who must needs begin that developmental process of 
doctrine from the accepted facts of the ruder and earlier Christians, 


which has attained proportions so large that it threatens, in the 
estimation of some, not only to supersede, but to tarn ont some- 
thing entirely different from the facts from which it is supposed to 
have taken its rise. Through all snch representations, both of the 
method and history of the so-called science of theology, there is, as 
cannot bnt be observed, great pains taken to keep close to the terms 
of science, bnt the likeness does not often extend beyond the termi- 
nology. Reason, it is held, has only comprehended any set of 
phenomena when it can explain the mode of its occurrence; in 
other words, infer its laws. The laws are the forms in which we 
write some ensemble of facts, and by the application of these laws 
to new experiences we are enabled to explain some new concurrence 
of phenomena. Or in another way, science, it may be said, reduces 
many particulars to one general principle ; it seeks after the ante- 
cedent of some given consequent. 

But it cannot be said that what is called the rationalised concep- 
tion of Biblical facts, as generally presented in systematic theology, 
gives us anything like the law of these facts, in the sense of its being 
the full or at least approximately exact explanation of them. There 
are many dogmas with which it is not attempted to do this ; and 
those dealt with after this manner are by no means so universally ac- 
knowledged as a law of nature is accepted after proper tests. Nor 
has it been scientifically shown that any one truth in the Bible on 
which the dogmatic spirit usually works has a connection like that 
of antecedent and consequent. Where this has been tried the con- 
nection has been made through data arbitrarily assumed, and beyond 
experience to confirm or refute. The process, while fruitful in creat- 
ing an imposing intellectual system, has been no less fruitful in errors, 
sometimes in absurdities and direct contradictions. The theological 
system that history has handed down to us, in whatever way it may 
be interesting, and it is so in various ways, is not interesting because 
it has advanced beyond isolated facts to the scientific unity of them.* 
The Christian consciousness, and the purified Christian reason that 
rationalises and develops doctrines, have evidently a want of uni- 
versality and an excess of arbitrariness that one does not find in the 
natural consciousness and the unsanctified reason. It is perfectly 
well known to the lay mind, notwithstanding the technical phrase- 

* The subject of Church creeds does not come within the scope of the present 
inquiry. No one, I imagine, regards these creeds as scientific statements ; they 
axe simply the legal articles of Christian communities. 


ology of theologians, that it was not the Christian reason of the third 
and fourth centuries or any century that stamped its image on Scrip- 
tural elements and so produced dogma, but only a certain section 
of that reason. It was often a question of numbers and not of 
reason. Herein also we see a very marked difference between tho 
mode of development in science and theological dogma. The one, 
as I have said, was carried and is still supported and carried, as we 
witness in the most consistently dogmatic Church, the Roman Ca- 
tholic, by numbers ; the other is carried against numbers, and by its 
inherent reasonableness clearly demonstrated and capable of verifi- 
cation by every properly educated man. No one could imagine for a 
moment any branch of science being developed by a scientific associ- 
ation who voted one, explanation as against another ; but every one 
knows that theological science has been entirely indebted to this 
artificial contrivance. It seems hardly necessary to say that the 
boasted grandeur and illimitability of the science and its hopeless 
stagnation are inconsistent. If its subject matter has such a range 
and deals with questions which on all hands are acknowledged to be 
the most difficult and profound, how is it that any sign of advance or 
even of inquiry is met by the keenest theologians with such deter- 
mined opposition ? We should expect from the supposed nature of 
the science that there would be a constant pressing forward into new 
regions of this vast territory — that investigation would at least be 
encouraged, and not frowned down or stamped out, by the boasted 
extent of its subject-matter. If it is a science, one is forced to say 
that theologians as a rule have ill learned the principles of science 
and have not caught at all the true scientific spirit. There is an 
ever increasing activity and freshness in scientific thought, and all 
classes of scientific thinkers unite in exciting a quest into every 
branch of knowledge, and behold, with acclamation, blows given to 
old errors by the discovery and announcement of new truths. There 
is precisely the reverse in systematic theology, and those who assume 
the guardianship of this finished science combine in an attempt to 
prevent any quest, and receive with alarm and menace blows given to 
old beliefs by the announcement of new conceptions.* An inde- 
pendent and original investigator in dogmatics is looked upon as an 

* I have no wish to burden the book with any particular theological position 
in dogmatics ; and besides, it would take me too much out of my way, and be 
unsatisfactory to boot, to attempt in parenthesis to show which is truth and which 
error in theology. What I advocate is healthiness of life and fearless thinking. 


unusual phenomenon where he is not regarded as dangerous. What 
is thus normal in every other science is quite abnormal in theology. 
The conclusions of a science fenced with penalties, kept intact from 
age to age by serious sanctions swiftly executed on the boldest think- 
ers, would be considered an unwarrantable procedure anywhere else 
than in theology. It is quite possible to say, as it will most likely 
be said, that all this applies to the theologian and not to theology. 
It is somewhat strange, however, that it is only in theology of all the 
sciences that such a position is taken up. Transplant the theo- 
logian into any field of science, and his attitude to thought and 
thinkers will be as another man's. 

It is very generally held that we have the germs of a theology in 
the New Testament. The various formulae that we meet with are 
assumed as such ; for example, those of baptism into the name of the 
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and the statement 
of Paul in Romans x. 9: "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the 
Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised 
Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved," — considered to be an 
acknowledgment of Christ's Divine sonship, and several others. 
A clear case for Christian doctrines is supposed to be made out 
from Hebrews vi. 1 : " Leaving the principles of the doctrine of 
Christ, let us go on unto perfection ; not laying again the foundation 
of repentance from dead works," etc. But these, and the general 
expression met with in Romans and in Timothy, "form of 
doctrine," "form of sound words," have little connection with 
dogma as we understand it. These so-called doctrines and forms 
of sound words are rarely if ever rationalised expressions of re- 
vealed facts, but precept and instruction for the promotion of 
personal religious life, and are thus part of the facts and not the 
laws of the facts. A glance at the context will prove this. The 
forms and formulae are not spoken of with regard to a certain mode 
of holding the knowledge of Divine truth, but with respect to the 
Divine life which they contain : " ye have obeyed from the heart 
that form of doctrine." And the elements of the doctrine of Christ 
that we are to learn, according to the writer of the epistle to the 
Hebrews, are not the beginnings of a rationalised conception of Divine 
revelation, but the elementary germs of the new life itself. Doctrine 
in the New Testament will not bear the technical meaning thus sought 
to be attached to it by the modern theologian. Paul's doctrine, like 
that of his Master, is in general not an induction or deduction 
according to scientific form, but a doctrine according to godliness 


(1 Tim. vi. 3). These statements can thus form no nucleus for the 
formation of dogma, which is rational and theoretic in its aim, 
while the other is spiritual and practical. 

It is said with more truth, however, that there is what the 
Germans call lehre in the Bible, somewhat resembling the less am- 
bitions dogmatic theology in being an ordered arrangement of a re- 
velation formerly given, with explanations more or less clear, but 
not pretending to amount to a rationale of the contents. That which 
is so often spoken of as the Thora is given as an example of this 
ancient lehre. There are, at all events, various attempts to state 
in some comprehensive expression the contents of the Bible; but the 
position from which this is done is very different from the dogmatic 
position. Such comprehension does not affect to be a law of Divine 
facts, or an absolute, or even a proximate solution of these facts. It 
will be found that, like revelation itself, from which the expressions 
of this lehre are drawn, they keep strictly to the form and spirit of 
its contents. The summaries, of which mention is here made, do 
not come within the compass of dogmatics, even in regard to the 
truths generalised. There is a most significant absence of all ques- 
tions that are purely abstract in their nature, and which concern 
the mode of certain spiritual existences out of experience, such as the 
doctrine of the Trinity, the general dogmatic statement of the atone- 
ment, etc. They are essays rather to gather up the scattered and 
multiform spiritual contents so far as relating to spiritual life, and 
to form them into some unity. There is a tendency in all our minds 
to give off in one inclusive expression many particulars, especially if, 
as in the Bible, we can discover amid the many details the link 
which holds them together. The attraction to this lies in having 
fragmentary thoughts or principles bodied in a finished statement. 
There are very many ways in which this can be done, and various 
minds will each choose its own form, and thereby enrich the com- 
mon life. There is such a wealth and many-sidedness to thought, 
and particularly to spiritual thought, because of the far reaching 
nature of those principles with which it deals, that on its objective 
as well as subjective side variety is to be expected. The kind of sum- 
ming up of religious life-principles which we mean may be seen in 
the conclusion of the Hebrew preacher : " fear God and keep His 
commandments : for this is the whole dutv of man," " Thou shalt 
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and 
with all thy mind, and . . . thy neighbour .as thyself," is the 
nutshell into which Christ, on the famous question of a lawyer, puts 


all the law and the prophets. Paul holds the endless variety of 
Christian principles in the sweet bonds of Christian charity — the 
love which " is the fulfilling of the law." Peter envelops all in a 
spotless robe : " be ye holy, for I am holy." James binds them in the 
leash of law : " so speak ye and so do as they that shall be judged 
by the law of liberty." John, following his Master, and with still 
more succintness, concludes all in love to God, because, as he says, 
this embraces the other head under which Christ reduced all the 
law and the prophets, inasmuch as " he that loveth God loveth his 
brother also." This, to a scientific theologian, is a very unambitious 
exercise of induction. It does not concern itself with what makes 
up the bulk of all our creeds, the ontologies! questions in religion. 
For theology is in the main simply an ontology with spiritual colour- 
ing, and may or may not concern our spiritual life. 

The reference of many life-principles and facts to one or a few 
leading seminal ideas is in keeping with the aim of the whole con- 
tents of the Bible, and with the method of perception which has 
been seen to be laid down there, and is, therefore, strictly within 
religious experience, and productive of the grand purpose of revela- 
tion, to advance men in spiritual perfection. Dogma, judiciously 
considered, can, at its best, scarcely be reckoned as a help to the 
highest development of Christian character in charity, meekness, 
unselfishness, and the other qualities called the fruits of the Spirit. 
No one can, on the other hand, think of science as anything else 
than a means to the improvement and elevation of mankind mate- 
rially, morally, and mentally. If dogmatic pursuits bear this test, 
we will begin to think there may be value in them as well as an 
undoubted scientific character. But is any one aware of a case in 
which dogmatics have been operative for good upon the spiritual 
life ? The study will, like any other logical exercise, cultivate a 
certain sort of mental sharpness, but this is irrespective of the sub- 
ject-matter with which it deals. There is one way in which it has 
been operative, but not for spiritual good. How many has it hin- 
dered from ever seeking this life ! What have been the causes of 
disputes among theologians and Christians P Certainly neither the 
life-principles of the Divine, nor the general expressions of these 
which have been mentioned as peculiar to writers of the Bible, but 
the supposed rationalised form of Divine facts. What has been the 
source "of the prolonged dispute between legitimate science and re- 
ligion but the positions, often irrational, and when not irrational 
quite inexplicable, of the illegitimate science of theology ? Why 


has charity been so long such a distinguishing mark of a well cul- 
tivated man, and so conspicuous by its absence in Christian society, 
unless from the fact that theology has no place for such a concrete 
thing in its shadowy abstractions P Why have God's words disap- 
peared, and the words of the schools been substituted for them, but 
because of the fever of theology, which has seized mankind, so that 
it is no longer sufficient for a man "to be a Christian, he must be 
of Apollos or Cephas or Calvin" P What are our churches for P To 
help men in the way of life, it will be answered ; but who knows how 
often they have thrown the stumbling block of theology in the way 
of some little ones P To save souls, one says ; but how often have 
men been driven from their doom — lost, as is charitably supposed P 
There is a rag of officialism in the English Church in consequence 
of which burial is denied within its precincts to all unless they are 
interred according to its formula. This looks a very extreme out- 
come of dogma. Men, however, can, without serious difficulty, get 
burial of their dead friends in spite of the English Church. We 
cannot so easily bury our dead beliefs, mainly because of the various 
churches, or rather, because of their dogmas. We should decently, 
and with all becoming reverence, bury many of the mental forms of 
onr ancestors as we inter their bodies. Let us have monuments 
erected by all means ; they will help some people's memories, and 
perhaps sustain their too fleeting sentiments. It is no more incum- 
bent on us to carry about their mental furniture, if it is not ours also, 
than it is to bear about their physical relics. Autumn sheds its 
leaves, and winter shrouds them with such purity and sanctity as 
men know nothing of, and the new spring comes forth again in its 
own fresh robes, not in the cerements of the dead year. The ab- 
surdity of preachers thundering at vices that do not exist has often 
been noticed, but this is no worse than talking a theology that has 
lost its meaning. 

44 The stuff that's made 
To furnish man with thought and feeling is purveyed 
Substantially the same from age to age, with change 
Of the outside only, for successive feasters." 

But this " change of the outside" may make all the difference 
between feasters being fed or not. 

Much has been said of the losses on the ancient Vedic Hyirins and 
earlier religious literature of the farther East ; but does not our 
sacred literature exhibit something very like this, — theological con- 




captions, patristic traditions, priestly ordinances, concealing as 
effectually as glosses the simple majesty of what once was Christ- 
ianity P Perhaps, who knows, strangers will hereafter come to the 
seat of Christendom as they have gone to India, and exhume oar 
earlier and purer faith. Let us anticipate them ; let us look at these 
things with open face. As has been said, " the Law and Christianity 
bear to be looked at with fresh eyes, nay, they demand this by each 
new time." We are not to disregard the past, but we must criticise 
it, and see that it belongs to us. In religion, above all, this is a per- 
sonal duty ; since it is a matter of spiritual life, and not of mere 
formalised belief; and anything that tends in the smallest degree to 
hide spiritual reality from us instead of bringing that reality nearer 
to us must be thrown aside, however venerable the veil may be. If 
we presented Christianity instead of theology, to men, there would 
not be so many standing aloof from it. We know no class that 
would much object to this unless the professional theologian and his 
admirers, who have a strange dislike to a simple Christianity that 
is not associated with the technicalities of a system. Men are not 
indifferent to Christianity so much as they are impatient of the airs 
and arrogances of theology. They have refused the one, and unfor- 
tunately with that have rejected the other, represented as it is in 
such beggarly fashion, that men are hardly to be blamed if they 
do not discern in the caricature the beauty and excellence of the 
thing aped. 

An historical and textual study of Scripture, with the view of 
tracing the growth of the religious sentiment in the Jewish nation 
and the general development of the life of the people, may accom- 
plish much. Systematic theology in the sense of an orderly arrange- 
ment of Biblical facts, when modestly gone about and properly 
estimated, may have its value, but it can never aspire to be a science 
in the sense of giving a rational explanation of Scripture contents. 
The consciousness of the Church has been long maturing the doc- 
trine of the atonement, but which is the correct law of this article 
of dogma ? Shall we look to Origen, whose theory was that it was 
a clever overreaching of the devil ; or to Anselm and some of the 
Schoolmen, who held the theory of satisfaction or payment in full of 
a debt ; or to the refined one of Duns Scotus of an acceptilated or 
legal satisfaction ; or the Grotian theory of respect to governmental 
law ; or to later theories, viz., the moral one of adequate confession 
and repentance, or the apocalyptic one of a manifestation of God's 
love and reconciliation ? Which of these is the boasted rationale of 


the facts, and by what means are we to verify the law so as to gain 
the certainty of an approximate solution of this transcendent truth P 
If, as is said, this great truth, which is "the very foundation of our 
hope and faith, transports us at once beyond the region of earthly 
relations to that mysterious ocean of truth where the compass of 
human experience can no longer guide us," * it is vain to speak of 
any rationalised conception of it ; we may as well speak of a rational- 
ised conception of the planet Jupiter, including that of its inhabi- 
tants, from the data which visual observation aided by the telescope 
furnishes to us. Who shall help the man involved in the meshes of 
the doctrine of sin, as stated in Pelagianism or Augustinianism, 
Arminianism or Calvinism ? Which is the rationale of the mots ? 
And how will it be with the theories if the basis of them be found 
to be a foreign myth incorporated into Jewish history ? Who can 
tell with any exactness an inquirer who wishes to know what degree 
of approximation the doctrine of God as elaborated by Christian 
reason bears to the metaphysical entity itself ? The evident con- 
clusion to a plain thinking man is, that, if not impossible, it is most 
difficult to form any theory of the facts of revelation which have 
been mentioned. They are not given in the form and order in which 
general theories can be constructed about them, and it is something 
like a delusion, natural enough perhaps from our practice with other 
facts, to throw them into such a shape. 

The main reason why theology, as the rationalised expression of 
Bible truths, cannot form one of the sciences is that already men- 
tioned, viz., the method of their apprehension arising from their 
purpose and nature. In the Bible we have given us the means of 
knowing God rather than any intellectually apprehensible truth 
concerning Him. It does not contain a bundle of truths, which by 
our piecing together of the various parts may give us an exact men- 
tal conception of the spirit world, but a communication of a ger- 
minating life-principle, which, growing up in us, and as it grows, 
will enable us to know more fully this sphere of being. It is this 
that theology has concealed, and by its wrong method has turned 
men's minds away from the leading facts of revelation. By thus 
applying a form of perception which belongs to another sphere of 
experience it has unnecessarily complicated the religious problem. 

It is not meant that theology in any sense is altogether inadmis- 
sible, but in its usual sense it assumes a great deal too much in 

* Macdonnell's "Donnellan Lecture." 


affecting to be a scientific induction. It is not without good reason 
that in science proper the name of God, e.g., cannot find a place. It 
is not found necessary by scientific men as a working hypothesis. 
Nor will it find a place as the sole subject-matter of a science, although 
a special science be formed for it and its cognate questions. Science 
is a translation of the outward multiplicity of relations into some 
equivalent rational formulas ; the method with the religious contents 
of the Bible, on the other hand, is the incorporation of a vital spirit- 
ual element with our spiritual nature. In the former we impose our 
mental life as it were, or the forms of our thought as they are called, 
upon the endless variety of nature ; or rather, we gather up the con- 
stant impressions on our senses into a rationalised order; in the 
latter case we have to place ourselves in given conditions, in order 
to evolve a more or less perfect spiritual life. As ideas simply, those 
of science are distinct ; those with which theology deals are, as ideas, 
indistinct. Through sensual experience, and the scientific intellect 
exercised on the facts of that experience, we gain an insight into the 
relations of things around us ; through Scripture revelation, and per- 
ception by a renovated life, our souls are nourished. It is not easy in 
the present state of the subject to illustrate the distinction between 
science and religious knowledge by any kind of antithesis. One way 
of doing so would be, perhaps, to compare our positions in the sen- 
sible and the spiritual world. Spiritually, man may be regarded as 
undergoing an evolution of that side of life, the necessary stimuli 
to which lie mainly in the Scripture revelation. He is, as it were, 
a unit of a spiritual kosmos now only in process of being formed, as 
the teaching of the parable of the mustard seed would indicate. This 
being the case, any rational accounting for the facts is, if not impos- 
sible, immature, — our impression being confined to the experience of 
influences tending to progressiveness in this life. We are, accord- 
ingly, elements in this spiritual sphere undergoing certain trans- 
formations dependent upon certain conditions, and incapable of ra- 
tionalising processes which are as yet incomplete. That is an ex- 
treme way of putting it perhaps. What is meant is this, that the 
contents of Scripture are not primarily concerned with truths that 
appeal to our understanding faculty, but rather with animating in- 
fluences that are intended to operate upon our hearts and consciences, 
and appeal to the spiritual element found in every man. The end 
of the commandment is always life, being " charity out of a pure 
heart and of a good conscience and of faith unfeigned." Regarded 
from this standpoint there is a manifest unity in the Scripture con- 


tents ; regarded from the theological position they are purely a 
congeries of puzzles. A great authority has said that God is not the 
author of confusion hut of peace ; and widening investigation con- 
firms this to be the case everywhere. Theologians, however, contra- 
dict their teacher on his own ground by making God indirectly the 
author of confusion, " in all the churches of the saints " at least. 
Controversy is occasional everywhere ; it is chronic in dogmatics. 
Indeed, it is boasted by our historical theologians that it is by this 
kind of antagonism that the science is built up; but it is not evidently 
in this way that the great prayer of Christ is to be realised, "that 
they may be one even as We are one," — evidently a thing much 
nearer His heart and more pertinent to Bis life-work than the com- 
pletion of theories that have no conscious basis in fact. It would be 
amusing were it not somewhat lamentable to hear divines abuse 
physicists for dogmatising, as they phrase it, after a tolerably patient 
investigation of facts, on certain theories regarding the physical 
world or the physical constitution of man, while they themselves 
without the same preliminary verification of facts, and for the 
most part on the authority of something like a Schoolman's dreams, 
theorise dogmatically upon an eternal spiritual world. Not the 
creation but the Creator is their subject, as if the nature of God 
were reducible to the category of the reason — as if an intellectual 
perception could be substituted for "the pure in heart." The 
faculty of perception and the nature of the thing perceived exclude 
the idea of science. It may seem out of date to speak of an open 
vision, but it is not surely out of date to speak what is true; and the 
open vision to the eye of faith is a much truer description of the 
mode in which the spiritual contents of the Bible are appropriated 
and known than the abstract conceptions of scientific theology. 
Some hold that there is no progression in the method here laid down, 
but we shall afterwards see that it admits of the greatest progress. 
The greatest sum of all knowledge in this the highest field of know- 
ledge will be a perfected vision of God. But the perfection of our 
being, our likeness to Him, is the sole condition of this, and not the 
power to scientifically explain metaphysical and supersensible phe- 
nomena. And as we grow in this likeness we shall hunger more for 
righteousness, and to that extent shall possess more insight into the 
Divine; so that what we have attained will appear in this Divine per- 
spective to be as nothing to that which is before us ; our stature as 
it comes nearer Christ's will always, to a more susceptible spiritual 
life, seem disproportioned ; our wills as they conform more to His 


must by a keener sense feel the slightest discord inharmonious ; and 
thus we shall be drawn above all earthly goals as oar souls expatiate 
on widening spiritual perfections. There is a reality in this know- 
ledge and in this advancement capable of being verified by the 
spiritual experience of writers in the New Testament as well as by 
the experience of good men of all times. There is no conscious 
reality in theological knowledge and dogmatic advancement, and no 
experience in or out of the Bible can ever verify it. It will not be 
maintained, for instance, that in the present supposed determinate 
form of creeds men know God more exactly (or are assured that they 
thus know Him) than in the indeterminate period of the early Church. 
The kind of knowledge in the creeds, and the kind of advancement 
shown from the creed of Jerusalem or Csesarea or Niccea, through 
Athanasius and the multiform reformed confessions, are opposed to 
genuine spiritual knowledge and advancement, as they are opposed 
to knowledge and advancement in the Bible sense of the words ; 
for, as has been said, theological articles are " precisely of that sort 
which devils may believe and still be devils." The other knowledge 
is a spiritual power conforming us to itself and known oommensu- 
rably with this conformation. Theology supposes, on the contrary, 
that the Scripture contents have in an isolated form what, by ratio- 
cinative processes, may be changed into the universal truth of 
spiritual existences. I for one do not in the least doubt that there 
is law in the spiritual sphere as well as elsewhere, order and not 
disorder, music and not discord. Theology, however, is certainly 
not the sacred harmonic. The higher unity is perceptible only to 
one, like Christ, who made God's will His. In this sense we say 
with Hooker that " all things in heaven and earth do law homage : 
the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted 
from her power, both angels and men and creatures of what condi- 
tion soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with 
uniform consent and manner, admiring her as the mother of their 
peace and joy." " The peace of God " is the highest expression of 
a spiritual life according to law. There was a law in Christ's, death 
when it behoved Him to suffer. There was perfect conformity to 
this law in Him when He said, " My peace I leave with you." But, 
even on this view of it, spiritual law is not the rationalised ex- 
pression of verbal facts, but the perfection of a life hid with Christ 
in God. 

It may not be out of place in the present connection to state that 
scientific men see very keenly the absurdity of a so-called science 


of theology, and their opinion on the point is to be preferred to that 
of one who is only a theologian, and who will naturally magnify his 
office. It is not that these men discuss formally this quasi-science, 
but they naturally leave it out of all their systems in the related 
sciences as without the pale of scientific method. 

It is in pure theology that the battles, as they are termed, be- 
tween science and religion have originated : in reality, they are only 
between science and theology. After making all possible allowance 
for theology, one can see little in it but much thin metaphysics, 
bad philosophy, and questionable thinking, or at best, good think- 
ing applied to very sorry purpose. What problem has ever been 
solved by the science, and whoever expects a rational explanation 
of any extensively vital question from a theological quarter? We 
look eagerly to physical science, to moral and political science, 
for elucidation on many points of inquiry and reliable explanation 
of phenomena; we look that theological dogmatics should merely 
hang on the rear of science, and impede its advance. It has lost 
very much the character of an independent growth, and become 
parasitic in its nature. The most notable additions made to it are 
mechanical adhesions, originating in the theological mode of viewing 
questions in the domain of other sciences or in that of general 
philosophy. Beaten from its ground, or feeling its tenure there uneasy, 
it is attempting to take the position of something like a philosophia 
prima. It will be said by those who defend the science of dogmatics 
that they have authority for their procedure in the practice of Paul — 
that Paul has made the truths of revelation a subject of rational 
investigation, and laid the foundation of a Christian dogmatic. The 
mere fact that the leading ideas and the point of view of Paul are 
generally adopted in systematic theology gives some faint show of 
truth to this opinion. But Paul's rationalising was rather in the 
way of illustrating argument for some special purpose than with the 
view of building up dogma or of giving the rationale of Divine facts. 
His theology, if he has any such, bears the evident mark of mere 
temporariness, an unfailing note of all that is not purely religious 
and spiritual. Christ, at all events, did not philosophise. He pre- 
sented to men His life principles unmodified, or only in the slightest 
degree modified, by phases of thought, and accordingly susceptible 
of adaptation to the state of thought at any time in the world's 
history. What is apparently theological in Paul no one can have 
any hesitation in holding as a mark of his age merely, just as the 
mythology, ethics, physics, and customs and manner of thought 


generally in the Bible, are temporary. If Paul or any of the Bible 
writers give theories, we may be certain that they are theories in 
consonance with the times in which they lived ; bat we are no more 
nnder obligation to accept their systematic theology, if they have 
such, than we are bonnd to accept their mode of interpreting the 
Old Testament Scriptures.* A good many of Paul's arguments 
are local, and to the modern mind, to say the least of it, sound flat 
and inapplicable. Many of them, so far as we are concerned, are ir- 
revalent and anything but forcible, and we are compelled to change 
our position in order to see their point. Not a few of the difficulties 
with which he contends are purely Jewish difficulties, and do not 
spontaneously occur to us, but have to be created in our minds. A 
good many preachers, following the practice of theological teachers, 
would make them universal ; but they really raise the difficulties by 
an exercise of imagination and a more or less historical knowledge, 
and answer them easily without one resisting hearer. 

A distinction has to be made, in writings like those of the apostles, 
between the permanent principles and the mere arguments in sup- 
port of the principles. The arguments are almost invariably local. 
And this kind of provincialism is evident in many of Paul's writings, 
although it is never difficult to distinguish what is local from what is 
universal in them. It is this provincial tone that gives such genuine 
reality to everything he writes, as we see that it does to other 
powerful thinkers. We have no call, however, to transplant the pro- 
vincialism into modern thought, with which it cannot amalgamate. 
It was only the outside of Paul's teaching ; the mannerisms of the 
man are consequent on his position in history. The marrow of 
his doctrine and the heart of the apostle have no local colouring, 
and in what might be called his reflective religious writings it is the 
new life in Christ that is the subject of his thought. His science, 
if I may say so, is more like the beginning of a spiritual psychology. 
It is possible that, even speaking exactly, semi-spiritual questions 
may yet be treated scientifically. At the first blush such investiga- 
tions promise to yield more to scientific methods than the questions 
embraced under dogma. As I said before, there is large scope for the 
application of many sciences to the Bible teaching. These sciences 
are, however, not purely Biblical sciences, but simply the application 

* No conception of inspiration can be at all adequate that lifts the Biblical 
writers out of their historical position, and the limitation that this position 



of general sciences to the national literature of the Jews, and the 
outcome of early Christian thought. These general sciences when 
thus specially applied, have hitherto, in the hands of the professed 
theologian, been subordinated very much to dogmatic belief. Were 
they applied by the purely scientific intellect, the gain would be 
inestimable. A3 it is, the men to whom this work is entrusted, 
though capable in the highest degree so far as learning and natural 
ability go, are often incapacitated by restrictions imposed upon them 
as clergymen. Science and dogmatics contending with each other 
in the same mind cannot produce speedy or valuable results. In the 
case of different personalities dogma has done anything but accelerate 
science. In almost any way, therefore, in which one looks at syste- 
matic theology, it presents to us an aspect decidedly unscientific. 
It is hostile to a purely spiritual life, the enemy of scientific investi- 
gation ; and it is both, because it is false as a method of spiritual 



" 1 find more and more that people employ the Scriptures very little for those 
purposes for which they are designed, but instead of this, use them the more for 
ends never intended." 

The attitude of science towards religions truth, as shown by its 
representatives, varies somewhat with the age. Bacon was able to 
say in his day that sacred and inspired divinity was " the sabbath 
and port of all men's labours and peregrinations." A leading 
physicist of the present day, speaking of science says that " science 
and philosophy are neither Christian nor nn- Christian, bnt extra- 
Christian, and have a world of their own."* Both statements, if not 
true to history and the facts of the present, ought to be. We know, 
however, that divinity has been anything bnt a halcyon quiet to 
those who have sailed its waters or to those who are now sailing 
them ; nor can we say that science now or at any time has been 
careful not to give grounds for the charge of being either Christian 
or un-Christian, by maintaining a strict neutrality. This iB not 
always, nor in most cases primarily, the blame of scientific men, but 
more frequently that of theologians, who have at the same time 
desecrated Bacon's " sabbath " through the unseemly brawls pro- 
duced by such conflict, and by opening certain flood-gates have let a 
heavy sea into his " port." 

There are 'men like Paracelsus who pretend to find in the Bible 
not only what is considered specially religious truth, but in addi- 
tion to this, all or a considerable part of natural philosophy as well. 
Even if we limit the truth conveyed through the Bible to what is 
more strictly considered religious truth, we do not find the unan- 
imity we might expect as to what is religious truth P An opinion 
is occasionally met with, and if we do not misunderstand him, 
Mr. Martineau lends it his support in objecting to Butler's argu- 
ment from analogy, according to which the Bible is a kind of sup- 
plement to clear up the riddles of nature. It is not our concern 
to defend Butler in this place, but Mr. Martineau's strictures on 

* Professor Huxley : " Lay Sermons and Lectures." 

r 2 


the argument from analogy lose all their cogency on account of 
the theory of Scripture revelation on which they are based. He 
says, with an apparent show of plausibility, that there can be no 
proper analogy between Scripture and nature on the side of their 
inexplicability. This objection, however, rests on a confusion of 
two things. If Butler had said that the analogy between nature 
and revelation holds in the very same things, as for example, that 
nature is obscure in teaching who was her author, and that the 
Bible shows the same obscurity, there would be force in Mr. Mar- 
tinean's objection that the Bible in this sense of it was no revela- 
tion, since it merely sets before us the same riddles that we find in 
nature. But Butler does not say this, nor would there, in such a 
case, be any room for the analogy he purposes to show. It is be- 
cause there are difficulties in both, but difficulties of a separate class, 
that we can be entitled to draw any analogy between them. 
Butler neither held, as some do, that the Bible was a republica- 
tion, on authority, of mere natural religion, nor what Mr. Martineau 
seems to hold, that it was an explanation of what was else inex- 
plicable in nature; but, on the contrary, that it was a system of 
spiritual things co-ordinate with the natural system, having os- 
tensibly the same source or author, and, as might be expected, hav- 
ing analogous difficulties. Its end being different, according to 
Butler it could not have the same difficulties that we find in nature, 
nor could it concern itself with solving these difficulties. Butler 
states at the very outset in the words of Origen the scope of his 
argument : "he who believes the Scripture to have proceeded from 
Him who is the author of nature may well expect to find the 
same sort of difficulties in it as are found in the constitution of 
nature." It is new relations that the Bible makes known to us, not 
the explanation of relations already known ; and the analogy is, as 
stated in one place, that there is reason to think that neglect of 
behaving suitably to the former will be attended with the same 
kind of consequences as neglecting to behave suitably to the latter. 
The position is so variously illustrated, that examples crowd upon 
us, e.g., that there is an analogy between the Christian dispensation 
and the natural scheme of things in the employment of means to 
accomplish ends; that there is the credibility that the Christian 
dispensation may be carried on by general laws as has been noticed, 
as well as the course of nature, because even in the latter it is but in 
few respects and an exceeding little way that we can trace natural 
things to law ; and on Mr. Marti neau's own objection Butler re- 


marks, we " cannot read a passage relating to this great mystery 
of godliness bnt what immediately runs np into something which 
shows ns onr ignorance in it, as everything in natnre shows our 
ignorance in the constitution of nature." The propriety of the ana- 
logy between Scripture and nature on the side of their inexplica- 
bility is in Butler's scheme quite indisputable, since, as he argues, 
" our ignorance is as much an answer to our objections against the 
perfection of the one as against the perfection of the other." 

That there are difficulties in Scripture, and difficulties compatible 
with a revelation we need not go beyond itself to prove. We know 
in part, one of its latest writers says ; that which has been revealed 
is not a full revelation in the sense of a full unfolding of what is 
otherwise mysterious, or we may say that Scripture, like nature, is 
not fully known, and that the difficulties which we meet with in both 
may not be in them but in ourselves. But even were the Scrip- 
ture revelation to be acknowledged complete in its own sphere, that 
is no reason why it should complete other spheres of truth. If 
the Scripture purported to be a supplement to our natural know- 
ledge, which Mr. Martineau seems to take it to be, — that is, explain- 
ing what in nature is dark and mysterious and problematical, — then 
it would belie the actual state of its contents, for on none of the 
many points of a pure kosmical origin does it throw such higher 
knowledge. But revelation pretends to no such place. It is evi- 
dently not intended as an appendix to knowledge naturally acquired, 
or an explanation of nature-problems, but an opening of a new 
world, a revelation of the spiritual and unseen. Nor need this re- 
velation be necessarily so clear as seems to be imagined. It accords 
well enough with our notion of revelation that for the present one 
side of the exceeding glory may only be seen. We have not, it is 
quite true, explored all its depths and hidden recesses. Perhaps if 
we had, we should find it wealthier, than we can imagine, in spiritual 
truths — not in sensible knowledge, in which we shall certainly find 
it poorer ; erven as in nature time and experience unravel many sup- 
posed physical mysteries, while they appear to drive farther back all 
imagined spiritual truth. 

There are some who hold that while the Bible gives us a correct 
view of religious truth both in theory and practice, it gives no 
theories on natural subjects to which we are bound to give any re- 
gard ; that the Scriptures do not, as some have supposed, anticipate 
any natural science. But this class of thinkers also hold that al- 
though we cannot look for the same scientific exactness in physical 


knowledge in the Bible as we have at present, there is perfect 
practical accuracy in describing these matters, and that the sacred 
penmen, as they are called, were kept from gross blunders; that 
in fact what is called inspiration applies to the details of ordinary 
knowledge in Scripture. 

The first thing that strikes one when such theories are mentioned 
is the extreme improbability of them. It does not seem the likeliest 
thing that a revelation of spiritual truth should at the same time 
contain a revelation of general knowledge. On the common sup- 
position of those who argue for it, the one is capable of being 
known by us, while the other is not. And even supposing that 
spiritual truth were a development of man's spiritual nature, it is 
a very possible thing that this development might not be accom- 
panied by a corresponding development of the other side of his 
nature. The ground on which a supernatural revelation of spiritual 
facts is generally argued is that of man's incapacity of arriving 
independently at an adequate knowledge of such facts ; but it would 
be no sufficient reason for such a revelation to those who argue in 
this way that it communicated knowledge which we were quite cap- 
able of acquiring ourselves. 

Of the various opinions we have mentioned, most people will in 
mere logical consistency confess to a preference for that of Para- 
celsus. If the Bible does teach us science, there seems no middle 
ground between holding that it teaches all the sciences and main- 
taining that its teaching and foresight are lacking in scientific 
precision. It comes, therefore, to be a question between Paracelsus 
and the extreme view of a modern school, that the Bible reflects 
the natural imperfections in knowledge of the people and the times 
in which it was written. We must, accordingly, either accept its 
dicta on these matters, or criticise them with the freedom with 
which we would criticise the views of any other book or people. Not 
only so, but we must, if we hold the first alternative, begin scientific 
investigations, as we begin theological inquiry, with the data that the 
Bible furnishes, and rationalise these into physical dogma. On such 
a supposition it is simply waste of time for us laboriously to toil in 
the observation of nature and man, when the explanations lie em- 
bedded in an unerring book. Laboratories may be shut up, for the 
experiments have been already made, and the result tabulated ; geo- 
logists may suspend their survey; governments may save money 
spent hitherto on deep sea dredgings ; enthusiastic observers need 
run no further risk in watching volcanic action ; travellers may stay 



at home, for the earth's formation is authoritatively settled ; physio- 
logists, ethnologists, moralists, socialists, and speculators in general, 
are doing tentatively and imperfectly what has been done completely, 
since the problems of man and nations, the questions of ethics and 
politics, and the large themes of philosophy are subjects of divinity 
and contained in the Scripture. Either this, or we must desist 
looking to the Bible for any of these things. It is either the sum 
of the sciences, or it has no place in scientific inquiry. If it is only 
authoritative in some branches of science, where shall we draw the 
line? Shall it be at any of the physical sciences, and if bo, at 
which of them, and why ? These questions are of more importance 
than one would imagine. It is not now so usual to hear arguments 
drawn from Scripture in support of a system of tithes, e.g., as it 
was a few years ago. The authority of the sacred text for the 
Divine right of kings has waned in modern times ; and it is not so 
generally thought to lend its countenance to slavery and prosecution 
for witchcraft. Good sense and general cultivation have come to 
the rescue of a bad theology, and exploded a great many of these 
social theories based on Scriptural authority. But there is a mode 
of thought in theology at present that proceeds on precisely the 
same view of the Bible. Its position is higher, however, inasmuch 
as it does not seek to buttress special opinions by Divine revelation, 
but places this revelation over against all scientific theories what- 
soever. It is not now sought merely to quote a Biblical author as 
countenancing some current state of society, but it is proposed to 
bring the conclusions of science to the bar of the Bible. It is not 
thought sufficient that a well verified induction should commend 
itself to the reason of man, but it must also commend itself to the 
Hebrew intelligence. It is well that the question should have 
reached a position like this. It is only in keeping with the un- 
deniable superiority of the Bible, that, if it possess the character of 
a standard in these matters, it must be the ultimate test. An 
intermediate test is worse than none at all. Finality is the one 
condition of any legitimate standard. Either, then, there is no ap- 
peal to the Bible in the investigations of natural phenomena, or it is 
the ultimate court of appeal. And it is this either in every science 
or in none. For if you exclude its authority in any, you impugn 
what is contended for by those who would extend its jurisdiction 
into the physical sphere, viz., its universal prevision; or you make 
this prevision merely arbitrary, with no guiding principle for those 
who would bow to it, unless the temperament of the individual. 


There is nothing so good as facts for proving or disproving 
a theory, and no one with the Bible in the one hand, and the 
legitimate inferences of science in the other, can doubt for a 
moment whether or not the Bible is in the relation of a standard 
to science. To those who are acquainted with scientific discus- 
sion it is plain on the face of the Scripture record, that ques- 
tions have arisen and are daily opened up which never occurred 
to any writer in the Bible, or at least of which, if they did occur, 
none of them has left an account. If such questions are men- 
tioned, how does it come about that they have never been dis- 
covered by those whose professional duty it is to explore and 
interpret the Bible, but have always and without exception been 
the result of direct observation of outward phenomena. If, e.g., 
the kosmogony of Genesis gives the theory of the earth's forma- 
tion, why did it require the suggestion of geology to discover this 
science ? At the very beginning of the Bible we have, according 
to one theory, a branch of natural science explained, and yet its cul- 
tivation is overlooked until quite recent times, and theology is only 
awakened to the consciousness of it through the sensible observation 
of nature by physical philosophers. The history of the Jewish nation 
is, however, at variance with any such supposition as the one now 
under review. There is no evidence to support the opinion that as 
a nation the Jews were given to scientific pursuits ; nor are there 
marks in their literature to show that by revelation or otherwise they 
know any more than their immediate neighbours on these points. 
Their direct contributions to science are, as any history of scien- 
tific thought will inform us, as small as the contributions of the 
Australians. There is not one subject of pure intellectual research 
that can be traced back to Hebrew culture. If the Jewish mind 
did cultivate science, their conclusions must have been kept distinct 
from their religious literature, and have at all events passed into 
oblivion. There is nothing anticipatory even of the extraordinary 
progress that man should make in this field of activity. There is 
no method shown by which the way might be rendered easy to 
after times. So far as pure science is concerned, no investigator 
would have missed the Hebrew nation. Some no doubt think the 
Jews have done positive injury to scientific thought ; but, as we shall 
see, it is not they, but false interpreters who have done the harm. No 
one thinks that African tribes have impeded the march of science, 
because their culture is still, as regards most of them, in the lowest 
condition. Their culture would only become a hindrance were Afri- 


can travellers to insist that every new advance in physical inquiry 
should square itself with African notions, and make good its 
position by proving that it did not contradict the African intelli- 
gence. Not only are actual results against any hypothesis such as 
that now mentioned, not only is the Hebrew language opposed to 
any idea of high mental culture and abstract thought, the whole 
purpose of the Bible is diametrically opposed to the conception of 
its being in any way concerned with the communication of such 
culture. If it be so concerned it falls infinitely below the unaided 
efforts of men elsewhere in ancient and modern times. Its theories, 
if we can so designate them, are childish by comparison with those of 
some other ancient peoples. It must, in this respect, be pronounced 
unhesitatingly a great failure. Not only has it shown itself meagre 
in its communications on such points, but it has not supplied 
impetus to further research. Those who look to it rest in it, and 
if others had been content to do the same we might, so far as mere 
material prosperity and intellectual accomplishments are concerned, 
have been no better than savages.* Its purpose is a purely spiritual 
one if we are to decide this question from the highest expression of 
this purpose in Christ. If He troubled Himself about the dissemina- 
tion of other kinds of knowledge, it were well that the evidence 
should be produced. When He said, "I have finished the work which 
Thou gavest Me to do," either this work of science was included or 
it was not ; if it was, this was a mere boast, inasmuch as during 
His whole public ministry He never touched upon a purely scientific 
question, so far as the accounts of His life go ; He neither gave us 
the way to the solution of these questions nor solved them. If this 
work was not included, we are at a loss to see why men should act 
and speak as if it had been. 

If those who insist so much upon the infallibility of Scriptures in 
science, considered what was implied in this infallibility, they would 
see how very futile it was. There is no occasion, in the meantime, 
to notice the necessary result of this mode of thinking upon our 
minds, in cases of conflict between scientific thought and Bible 
truth, such, for example, as doubt of its authority on points of 
general knowledge, and even doubt on those points with which it 
is chiefly concerned. It implies, however, a notion that spiritual 

* The condition of savage life is not be confounded with the savage disposi- 
tion ; and Christianity, we know, can adapt itself to the lowest culture as well 
as to the highest. 


truth is incommunicable without a previous training in intellectual 
knowledge. The absurdity of this is evident at first sight. A 
spiritual revelation would have been postponed indefinitely if this 
were the one condition of its acceptance. Very few will deny 
that we still have mnch to learn of mere sensible knowledge; 
and mnch that may alter our present vague surmises and state- 
ments of it. So far as we can see, the progression in this direction 
is infinite, but until this progression to infinitude has advanced 
much further, a perfect exactitude in general truth is impossible 
for us, and, according to the supposition, spiritual truth must re- 
main for an indefinite period beyond our reach. Of course, what 
applies to us applies equally to the Jews. If Christ, e.g., had 
burdened His Divine mission with what seems a small matter to 
some minds, viz., the removal of erroneous views on physics, a 
three years' mission would not have sufficed for such a gigantic 
task alone. Unless by pure miracle, as the present state of know- 
ledge shows, geological eras would have been needed, even by a 
Divine messenger, for effecting such a result. If every other 
Divine teacher had prefaced his spiritual mission with a crusade 
against intellectual ignorance, every one sees that the work of 
his life would never have been approached. We have only 
to calculate the intellectual prejudices, in which ignorance en- 
trenches itself, to estimate approximately the insurmountable diffi- 
culties that lie in the way of such a plan of spiritual redemption. 
The spiritual benefit would have been refused although good in 
itself, because mingled with what was contrary to universal belief 
in other matters. Almost every one who acknowledges a revelation 
at all acknowledges that it was in a way a gradual unfolding of the 
Divine will — that there was a correspondence between it and men's 
capacities for its reception ; what is there opposed to such a view 
in the supposition that whatever other elements might be in that 
revelation corresponded to the then state of society? If we say 
without offence that the spiritual position of the patriarchs was 
greatly inferior to ours, how should it be considered so great a 
matter when we say that their general culture is not to be com- 
pared with ours P We should expect that many a Jew would have 
very much doubted the message of a prophet or teacher who came 
to them with a new spiritual truth if its acceptance depended 
upon an entire alteration of their mental habits. If a Jew had been 
obliged suddenly to revolutionise his theory of the heavenly bodies, 
e.g., before he could know the name of Jehovah and feel His love, 


we know how insuperable a barrier such a requirement would have 
raised in his mind. The battle of knowledge with ignorance is too 
keen and undecided for any man of common wisdom to make so 
important a matter as spiritual life dependent on the success of its 

We ourselves are guided by the principles that are evidently acted 
upon in the Bible. Christian missionaries, I suppose, do not begin 
their work by rectifying the philosophical and physical blunders of 
those to whom they explain their spiritual message. At least, it is not 
generally understood that special acquirements in the sciences, such 
as those necessary in theology, are exacted from applicants for mission 
work. Nor do we find that the special difficulties with which they 
have to contend are difficulties that spring from a backward state of 
mental culture. No one thinks that when Ulfilas translated the 
gospels the Goths had very correct' notions of any science, although 
they might be capable of appreciating spiritual truth and entering 
upon a spiritual life. When Christianity was embraced by our 
ancestors, they were not men skilled in the wisdom of this world. 
Paul himself tells us as a general truth in the spiritual life, and we 
are accustomed to hear it boasted of in some of our churches, u that 
not many wise men after the flesh, . . . not many noble are 
called ; " but these wise men and noble are apparently just the men 
that have the preparation thought necessary by modern theology for 
the reception of spiritual truth. When the progress of Christianity 
is touched upon one of the points invariably noticed is, that illiterate 
fishermen were the means of its first promulgation, which is con- 
sidered a practical exemplification of a Biblical sentiment, that God 
hath chosen the weak things of this world as His instruments in 
the advancement of the spiritual kingdom — that he hath ordained 
strength out of the mouth of babes and sucklings ; but this would 
be utterly irrelevant, if it is at the same time supposed that these 
fishermen had been supernaturally raised above the men of their time, 
not only in spiritual life and insight but in scientific knowledge. 
That would be a reversal of the spiritual process, and would look 
like choosing the things that are mighty to confound the weak. We 
may rest persuaded that Paul and the psalmist are correct and the 
theologians wrong. One would imagine that, every theory of inspi- 
ration aside, the men who doubtless spoke their own experiences 
were nearer the truth than those who judge merely by inferences 
drawn sometimes from doubtful facts. It is both difficult to observe 
facts and to draw inferences, when the correct facts are got. Some 


writers pronounce very confidently on what the Savionr, for ex- 
ample, knew, and what He did not know, and while considering it 
somewhat hazardous to do so unless in a very general way, I think 
the words that Milton puts into Christ's mouth might well enough 
he put into the mouths of any of the writers of the Bible as a de- 
scription of the extent of their knowledge and culture : 

" If I would delight My private hours, 
With music or with poem, where so soon 
As in our native language, can I find 
That solace?" 

There has already been occasion to notice how little any one could 
learn of science or philosophy from such a source. Amos is a good 
type of many of these simple men, and we see no affectation of 
knowledge incongruous with his humble occupation, or with the idea 
that the culture of his spirit was supplied by the sacred literature 
of his nation, joined to that " light from above," — the fountain of 
light, which rendered him independent of other sources. To make 
any point in the wide field of scientific knowledge which has been 
opened since the time of Amos amenable to the herdsman of Tekoa, is 
quite as great a confusion of thought as it would be to consult a 
nomadic chief on the practical application of scientific theories to 
commerce and manufacture, because he might chance to possess the 
rude textures which are the fruit of primitive ingenuity. 

From a desire to deal plainly with this question of Biblical authority 
in the matter of ordinary and scientific thought, any one may be 
asked to compare the state of physical investigation in any known 
part of the ancient world during the time embraced by the Jewish 
records, with the present position of such inquiries, and honestly say 
if there could be any prospect of forward movement so long as we 
maintained such a backward inclination as led us to test our achieve- 
ments by their crude results. Our references to them would be like 
the consultation of oracles that are dumb. They knew hardly any- 
thing of the very attitude of our minds towards a phenomenal world. 
The questions we ask are only those that we ourselves can articulate, 
and presuppose all the lapse of years and accumulated experiences 
between them and us. We might as well consult children about the 
calculus as consult an ancient Jew about certain physical truths, or, 
what is the same thing, make violent efforts to accommodate them to 
his supposed notions of them. The Bible has about as much to do 
authoritatively with scientific questions in electricity as it has to do 
with a system of telegraphic communication ; it has as much to do 


authoritatively with scientific questions in physiology as it has with 
a system of dietetic* ; it has as much to do with scientific questions 
in geology as it has with practical questions in agriculture relating 
to the nature of the soils. And if the telegraph clerk does not dream 
of consulting it why should Franklin P if the medical practitioner 
does not think of acting according to its rules, why should Darwin 
be obliged to think according to its statements P if the farmer should 
not farm according to its methods, why should Hutton make his 
inferences in accordance with its conclusions P If, after all, it is said 
that its sphere is universal truth, and that our sciences come within its 
sweep, I am anxious to know why our civil constitution or any prac- 
tical matter is not also included. If it is like the koran in its minute 
directions and communications regarding every likely occurrence in 
life, is it also like the koran in having overlooked some very impor- 
tant combination of circumstances that did not formerly exist, or what 
is the same thing, which for the writers had no existence P Since it 
seems to contain much more that is practical than theoretical, why 
are we to make it our criterion in speculation and not in practical 
application? If also, as it happens, there is a difference of opinion 
regarding the classification of a subject such as ethics, e.g., which some 
say is practical, others scientific, is the Bible to be a rule to the one, 
and to be null and void to the other P Many will say this is mere 
banter. It may be to them ; but to those who are anxious to have 
some kind of, method in thought, it is of the utmost consequence that 
a measure which has such pretensions as this Biblical one should be 
most strictly determined and rigidly conformed to. If there be a 
mode of verification hitherto unnoticed in all systems of logic and un- 
applied in actual thought, the sooner it is described and insisted on 
the better. It is quite impossible that the present chronic state of 
open or concealed enmity between the Bible and science can continue 
with advantage to either. If students of the Bible as such have the 
right to put a veto upon the labours of the students of nature as 
such, they must show the character and extent of this right. It can- 
not longer be left to be exercised according to personal caprice. The 
time has come for those who have so long done this, to methodise and 
explain the principle of their action. If they are not able to do so 
within some degree of correctness, they are not fit to employ the 
instrument. Hitherto, science has presented something more resem- 
bling a parliamentary debate than a calm investigation of eternal 
truth. Its subjects have been questions of party feeling rather than 
of principle. It may be that, as in practical legislation so in abstract 


thought, truth is to be reached by the combined effort of a conserva- 
tive and liberal policy — that, principle and reason apart, and merely 
on account of birth or some other less important accident, a clergy- 
man, like a tory squire to the radical manufacturer, should act the 
drag to the philosopher. If it is only a matter of tactics it is per- 
fectly explicable and might be easily met. Whatever be the idea of 
the relation that exists in the minds of those who criticise science 
from the standpoint of the Bible, it greatly concerns both the Bible 
and science that it be defined with the greatest precision. 

For my part it is not at all doubtful what this relation is. The 
Bible has, and has not, to do with science. It has to do with it just 
as any people's literature may have to do with it ; and it has not to do 
with it any more than no national literature has to do with it, to the 
extent of being an authority from which there is no appeal. The 
Jewish and Christian religion, we have seen, had one very marked 
characteristic, viz., that its literature was Divine and human. The 
entire development of spiritual truth which it contains was through 
human forms, and eminently historical. It is a religion, besides, 
as we shall afterwards see, that is strictly moral, blending with 
all the relations of life, and indeed with the entire activity of man : 
and being such, we should expect that with ;the record of this 
revelation all these relations would be interwoven. As the Jews 
could not have handed this revelation down to us without at the 
same time handing down the structure of their language by which 
it was communicated, so neither could they do so, it being as it is, 
without conveying to us some of their general opinions and beliefs. 
And as we are no more bound to account the language a perfect 
model for the transmission of thought, nor even specially Divine, as 
some have done, so neither are we under any necessity of accepting 
their mythology and philosophy as the ultimata in scientific thought, 
as others now do. Their language shows distinctly three stages, — 
a more archaic form, a growth to comparative maturity, and a deca- 
dence. There is no speciality in that. Their ordinary beliefs present 
the appearance of those met with elsewhere. They were not simply 
a religious race, they were men with a body of thoughts on things 
around them, and we have in their history not a series of religious 
dogmas isolated from common life, but in closest connection with it. 
It is thus that we have pictures of the early form of government 
that prevailed among them and of their later polity, because their 
religion was one in vital relation to every state of social existence, 
and the account of their religion involves an account of the con- 


dition of society in which it was embodied in some of its aspects. 
Haying a national existence and possessing a history, like all 
nationalities, the Jews trace this history beyond the memory of 
man into the dim regions of an uncertain tradition expanded and 
illuminated by the poetic imagination. And so we have a primeval 
history, or half legendary narrative where facts may have vanished, 
but where the imaginative personages are true to the nation that 
claim them as their progenitors — their faith, their customs, and 
their mode of life being one. They have a kosmogony, as every 
people has ; but it is a kosmogony, on its spiritual side, in keeping 
with the Jewish religion. They have myths, else were they more 
than human ; but these myths show the same religious spirit. We 
can see from their records the simple views they entertained on 
astronomy, ethnology, and other subjects of investigation, as well as 
the condition in which the arts of life flourished among them at 
different periods. There are few subjects of interest to the an- 
tiquary or the student of culture but what may be illustrated from 
the Jewish records as well as from the records and traditions of 
any nation. We may see the mode in which the Hebrews regarded 
these questions, just as we may collect from various sources the 
advancement made in the solution of them by other peoples. As 
a contribution to the history of primitive manners and beliefs, and 
furnishing with others a basis of comparison, these records are of 
the greatest interest to the man of science. As conclusions by 
which he is to abide in his independent researches, they are alto- 
gether useless ; to elevate them into this position is to mistake their 
nature entirely. They are facts of historical development, and 
they may take their place along with facts of a like nature, but 
they ought never to be confounded with certified conclusions from 
facts. Because such and such things are mentioned in the Bible 
it is concluded that they are authoritatively taught by it. Because 
the problems of Euclid were communicated in Greek must Euclid 
be also held as teaching the Greek tongue P 

Now-a-days religion is mingled necessarily with what we may con- 
sider as not strictly religions. A man of undoubted piety may give 
expression to the veriest crudity in speculation, but his religion is 
distinct from that. It was not otherwise with the Jews. The whole 
development of a man is seldom carried forward at once ; no more is 
the development of a body of men. Great spiritual progress is not 
incompatible with a backward state of scientific thought. Ton may 
have a moral nature of great depth and purity, and united to it an 


intelligence which has not been trained in any school of philosophy, 
nay, with even lingering superstitions beliefs on certain subjects. So 
also yon may have a man of fine aesthetic capacity with a compara- 
tively low moral tone, and the reverse. When we say so we are very 
far from saying that it would not be better otherwise : that a moral 
life would not be widened by intelligence; that taste would not be 
purified and ennobled by union with a conscience that moved re- 
sponsive to the Divine law ; that the conscience itself would not be 
perfected by being wedded to a soul keenly susceptible to all that 
was beautiful. We cannot pronounce with any certain approach to 
exactness what would be the effect of a conjunction of all that was 
highest in man, but one sees constantly a high spiritual life with- 
out anything like a corresponding elevation of mental culture. 
Indeed, the present relation of science to the Bible very much prevents 
us witnessing anything else unless in rare and exceptional cases. 
And if such a combination is not impossible now, how do we con- 
sider it unlikely in former times ? If Peter, James, and John were 
not indoctrinated into Greek philosophy ; if Paul had no insight 
into modern methods of thought before becoming an apostle of the 
new spiritual life to man, — why must we suppose that Moses or any 
of his historians, David or any of the poets of the Old Testament, 
should be familiar with truths in celestial physics that were only 
possible in recent times P Bunyan had no need to become a Newton 
in order himself to travel, and point others the way, to the Eternal 

The general answer to this will probably be, that no one now-a- 
days insists on the extreme view of Paracelsus ; but, I might reply, 
if some were consistent, they ought to do so. The opinion, we are 
told, held by those who believe in an infallible book is merely, that 
the writers were preserved from error in speaking on physical and 
philosophical questions, and from inadvertence in their narratives 
and chronological tables. We need not ask at the present day what 
a correct view of the earth's position relative to the sun has to do 
with the gift of eternal life by Jesus Christ, or what effect the cor- 
rectness of a list of names can have upon a scheme of salvation 
devised, as we are told in the same breath, in the counsels of Jehovah 
from all eternity, and which would remain a fact, in spite of all 
solar theories, and be operative on human society, although every 
genealogical tree were cut down and destroyed. We do not ask these 
questions, but we must consider what is supposed in such an ap- 
parently insignificant demand upon our credulity. It is a much 


larger hypothesis than those who make it seem to think, and is in 
point of fact equivalent to the extreme opinion just noticed. It is 
proposed to hold that the Scripture authors write as if aware of the 
general truths of a sensible experience that were unknown to their 
contemporaries, which is simply that they were aware of what from 
the nature of the case, they must have been entirely ignorant. They 
could not have expressed themselves on many points with an appa- 
rently full knowledge of the subjects without writing what was, 
not only to themselves, but to others, pure nonsense. Writing in 
the 6th century, B.C., e.y., how could they write intelligently, by 
expressing themselves as if they were in the 19th century, a.d. P 
Nay, how could they thus write at all ? Language has one side that 
is flexible, but it has another that is most unyielding. Beliefs 
long forgotten, and buried for centuries, linger in the language and 
literature of a people. After an opinion is changed from false to 
true, a long time elapses before a corresponding alteration is made 
upon the vehicle of thought ; so that, even supposing the sacred 
writers to have been divinely inspired in physical science, for example, 
they would have required an inspiration in philology to have con- 
structed a medium for the conveyance of this knowledge. Granted 
that we can never tell what or how much they knew, we can always 
tell, by signs that are unmistakable,. what they communicated. The 
Hebrew language, as a language, will not, by the wildest theorist, 
be held as Divinely given, but developed like other languages, and 
corresponding always to the general state of culture of those who 
employed it. And writers, whether inspired or not, have clearly 
accommodated themselves to this, or, what is nearer the truth, 
have used the language without any consciousness of accommoda- 
tion, but with an evident ease, as finding it the natural and only 
instrument fitted for their purpose. So that this protection from 
error really amounts to the supernatural communication of a very 
positive advance in knowledge to those who wrote as well as those 
for whom it was written, and a miraculous development of the lan- 
guage in which they wrote. A man's beliefs are not detached de- 
posits in his mind, and of such a nature that one may be removed 
without affecting another. They are related and co-related in many 
ways, and a mechanical guidance, such as that spoken of, would con- 
tradict the known laws of our mental life. In every way in which it 
may be viewed, the theory is beset with difficulties, and is, above 
all things, contradictory to facts. 

A great many minds are naturally much shocked at the idea of a 



theory of accommodation as a mode of explanation of Bible difficul- 
ties, and this is as it should be. It is in opposition to snch a theory 
that we are arguing. There has been far too much tendency in relig- 
ious questions, and even in those that are most vital to Christianity, 
to regard them in a merely arbitrary light. It is the worst case of 
accommodation imaginable by us, that a man should be made to write 
what is to him and others false, in order that those to whom he did 
not write — at least not immediately, and, as we have elsewhere seen, 
probably not intentionally, in however remote a way — might not be 
misled. It is not necessary to suppose accommodation when we 
understand that the men are writing naturally, in the language and 
thought-colouring of their time. The accommodation arises when 
they write in the language and thought of another time. There is 
vitality and history in the former case ; in the latter there can be 
neither.* There is nothing, perhaps, that can give to the expert a 
note of time more exactly than particular stages of thought or lan- 
guage; but to suppose thought and language accommodated — as 
they must have been on the theory to which I refer — to the highest 
possible development of either (for accommodation is manifestly of 
no avail, unless carried to this pitch) would be to efface every mark of 
time, and render the Christian religion altogether unhistorical. I 
have already pointed out that there are imperfections in the lan- 
guage of the Scripture writers, and I am altogether unable to see 
that imperfections should abruptly stop there. If the actual ac- 
quirement of the Jews in the use of language is to be found in the 
Bible, why should their real attainment in thought, of which lan- 
guage is in one way the external manifestation, be not also given ? 
If grammarians and philologists can set to work on pure scientific 
principles with the Hebrew, or with any other Semitic tongue, 
or with any one of the other family of languages, they are doing 
neither more nor less than we ask the liberty to do with the beliefs 
and opinions in which the Hebrew language had its origin. As the 
Bible contains facts for a comparative view of languages, so does it 
contain facts for a comparative view of culture. And as we do not 

* I might say that in the first oase there is truth and individuality, as against 
what looks like deception and the outcome of an impersonal agency in the 
second. The Bible, instead of being, as I think it is, a natural growth of the 
human spirit and the Divine, would be an altogether unnatural product, if it 
were composed in the artificial manner we are asked to believe. It would be 
superfluous, under such a supposition, to seek to account for the authorship of 
the various books, which could have none. 


erect the facts of its language into a ne plus ultra in the science of 
the symbols of thought, neither should we erect its current opinions 
into a ne plus ultra in thought itself. We do not bow to Matthew, 
Mark, or Luke, to John, or Paul, in questions of style and elegant 
expression ; why should we be obliged to submit to them in questions 
of medicine and philosophy P We do not find that language, with its 
many defects in these early times, has done anything to obscure the 
splendour of a Divine revelation, nor shall we find that any human 
imperfection whatever can quite conceal the excellence and perfec- 
tion of what is heavenly. Contradictions between the Bible and 
science there can be none ; but contradictions between men's views of 
the Bible and science there are in plenty, as there will always be 
contradictions between the false and the true. The Bible is not re- 
sponsible for the science or pretended science built upon it. It does 
not view the world with the scientific intellect, but with the religious 
consciousness, and it clothes the feelings thus originated in the 
simple and unaffected language of the time. 

There never has been an objection, that could bear looking at, 
brought against Christianity as a spiritual religion. Without excep- 
tion they have been objections brought against many things which 
a false theology has bound up with religion. With ill-directed 
generosity men have undertaken to support as universal truths, 
and even as vitally united with a spiritual revelation, statements 
that are merely the historical facts of the growth of intelligence. 
They have themselves believed, and made others imagine, that 
spiritual truth might be assailed through these facts, and have 
involved themselves in questionable answers to objections that were 
pointless so far as regards the main question at issue. It may be 
granted, once for all, that you can match the early myths of the 
Hebrews with those of neighbouring nations,* that the Phoenicians, 
Egyptians, Chaldees, and others with whom they came into contact, 
contributed to their intellectual growth, and furnished them with 
a body of tales and systems of beliefs that were interwoven with 

* Distant tribes too. A Khond sect in India has a story very like that of 
Abraham and Isaac. The members of that sect now sacrifice a buffalo to the 
Light god, but tell us that the Earth goddess desired the sacrifice of men. The 
Light god, however, sent a tribal deity who crushed the bloody goddess under a 
mountain, and dragged a buffalo from the jungle, saying, " Liberate the man 
and sacrifice the buffalo.' 1 It is quite possible, as has been suggested, that 
both may record in myth the transition from human to animal sacrifice. Very 
likely there was at the same time a change in the object of worship. 

s 2 


those of native origin; that you may find a kosmogony and the 
story of a flood in every nation ; that you may discover the exact 
counterpart of the story of Eden in many lands, and the principle 
underlying it in almost all ; that yon may convict the Hebrew 
writers of as childish views of heaven and earth as other people, 
of as unworthy and degrading superstitions, or of beliefs as fan- 
tastical as those to whom no revelation such as theirs came. But 
no candid reader of the Bible would look for anything else. There 
is evident among the Jews a spiritual development, but there is no 
sign of a special immunity from error in thought on ordinary 
experiences. In the life eternal they were taught of God as we 
must all be, if we are taught at ail; in the knowledge of the 
sensible world around them they were taught as men from the 
beginning have been, and, to all appearances, to the end will be 
taught, viz., through gradual accumulations of experiences, and by 
careful and methodical comparisons. Knowledge in itself, that is 
not the result of inquiry and thought, is not so great a gain. A 
greater gain than any special knowledge is the cultivation and per- 
fection of our powers of knowing. If, therefore, the Hebrews were 
exempted from pursuing the common road to wisdom, as some 
appear to think, we cannot envy them, since they must have missed 
the chief end of the acquisition of wisdom, the cultivation and per- 
fection of their mental and moral nature. It is only by the exercise 
of any function that its ideal excellence can be realised, and we 
have no reason to think that the Jews were deprived of the only 
means by which their powers of observation and thought could be 
improved.* A spiritual advantage that implies an irreparable in- 
tellectual loss of this kind would be, as we are constituted, a ques- 
tionable gain. 

This appears to be the place for remarking that, when it is ob- 
jected, as it often has been, against the Jewish religion and revelation, 
that the Jews in their treatment of the Canaanites, and in their exul- 
tation over deeds of cruelty, as, for example, in one of their earliest 
and most vigorous and apparently most genuine songs, exhibit a 

* On the contrary, it is worth noting, that their first man, is according to one 
account at least, represented as the founder of scientific investigation — that 
naming, not by any means a contemptible accomplishment, was began by him. 
Scientific inquiry and method have an antiquity and authority, for those who 
care for such, that are seemingly beyond dispute. They are pursuits to which 
the first man was introduced in a most unexceptionable way, by the Divine Being 
Himself.— Gen. ii. 19, 20. 


condition of morality that is unworthy a people who had the know- 
ledge of God which they are reported to have had, it is an objec- 
tion that tells unmistakably against the view of Divine guidance in 
every act of life and thought that has just been noticed. An answer 
to an objection like this is precluded to those who contend for guid- 
ance in every point. It is not open to them, as it would otherwise 
be, to say, who cares to defend the moral development of the Jews 
any more than their intellectual development? We do not seek 
to defend such developments elsewhere. The proper course here, as 
elsewhere, is explanation, not defence. Especially is it dangerous to 
defend this feature of Jewish history, as Mr. Mansel has done, by the 
extravagant supposition of a moral miracle — by what, to us, is worse 
than the act that is sought to be defended — the idea that murder 
may be a temporary suspension of morals and consistent with eter- 
nal morality. I shall have to notice elsewhere this notion of eternal 
morality ; but I may say here, that explanations intended to smooth 
such acts down as the result of special precepts cannot escape the 
prime difficulty, that they are expressions of a moral nature, which 
we are bound to interpret by these manifestations of itself. 

There are not many more puzzling questions in the New Testa- 
ment than demoniacal possession, and yet the question is not confined 
to it. Such phenomena have been, and still are, common to many 
peoples. Indeed, not only were extraordinary cases of illness for- 
merly, and even now, by some savage races ascribed to possession, but 
all disease was familiarly traced to such a cause. Diseases were 
treated as if this were the only cause. Medicine, as a consequence, 
was in a great measure unknown, and artificial means were relied 
upon to cure the patient, such as, sucking out or drawing off the 
disease, as if it had a distinct personal existence. In Borneo sick 
people are said to be smitten by a spirit. In New Zealand medical 
practice has not gone beyond this stage, and it is known to the 
Americans, Patagonians, East and West Africans.* The symptoms 
found in these places resemble those described in the New Testa- 
ment, viz., frantic gestures, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, 
raving, and gnashing of teeth. It is well known that the same 
belief was current among peoples who had a large influence on 
Jewish opinion. And later on, in the early days of Christendom, 
somewhere about the third century, demons adjured by the true 
God, shuddered in the wretched bodies of those possessed, and came 

* Tylor, " Primitive Culture." 

v 1 


forth. This is very likely to have been only a provincial way of 
speaking about certain kinds of disease current among the Jews at 
a particular stage of thought, as appears to have been the case else- 
where. At all events, the Jewish diagnosis of a disease, even al- 
though recorded in the New Testament, will scarcely be considered 
an authority by a modern medical practitioner. 

There is another mark of provincialism in speaking about spiritual 
beings of opposite dispositions, which, if not derived from contact 
with Persia and Assyria, was largely influenced by such contact ; I 
mean the doctrine of angels. We find in some West African tribes 
hierarchies among spiritual beings not altogether unlike the same 
orders that we find in the Bible. And the Olympian divinities 
also suggest the idea of a higher deity working through inferior 
spirits.* Stricter investigation into the intellectual side of Juda- 
ism and its relations to similar developments elsewhere will, no 
doubt, furnish us with proofs of the temporary and formal nature 
of much that has been hitherto considered eternal and material. 
The whole question of what is universal, and what is merely pro- 
vincial in Paul, is one of great interest. It will be necessary with 
him, as with others, to see the eternal that shines through the 
temporal ; to separate life-principles from the arguments by which 
they were recommended to a particular people ; to distinguish Paul 
the spiritual teacher from Paul the theologian and system maker. 

From indiscriminate acceptance of whatever was written, no mat- 
ter when or on what subject, and from the tendency to deduce from 
this as from indubitable principles a system of truth, students of 
the Bible have at every point found themselves opposed to the 
conclusions of nature. The two spheres of spiritual and sensible 
experience are not, therefore, to be concluded contradictory, nor as 
needing any elaborate reconciliation. The oppositions that we 
witness are not between science and spiritual truth, but, as has 
been already said, between science and dogmatics, or erroneous 
conclusions from spiritual truth, or, more frequently, conclusions 
from the perishable moulds that held this spiritual truth. Spiritual 
truth, as apprehended by a spiritual nature, which is the only 
method of its apprehension, does not shun science, it courts it 
rather. In a well balanced mind, although these truths are 

* So close was the resemblance to Milton's mind, that he has not hesitated 
to construct his poem on it. His angelic beings can war against the Supreme 
Being, as the races of the gods fought against each other. 


differently acquired, and, according to onr phraseology, which is 
nsed for distinction only, in different spheres, for anything we can 
tell they may belong, as the best minds have ever imagined, to the 
same great tree of knowledge. Dogmatics, however, which are what 
John Smith calls " the thin speculations of philosophy/' mingled 
with more or less spiritual truth, may well seek to avoid an en- 
counter with science and the scientific intellect. The theologian 
if an encounter on any point is forced upon him, feeling himself 
destitute of facts that form an immovable ground for the man of 
science, is too much inclined, as has been said, " auf Gott zuruckzu- 
greifen, um mit ihm, als einer bequemen Hypothese, die Erklarung 
desselben, die ihnen zu viele Miihe macht, zum Schein zu geben." 
But this hypothetical function of the Deity is the creation of a bad 
philosophy. The relations of God made known in Scripture, as has 
been observed again and again, are essentially spiritual, and the 
means by which we are to know this Being is true to the great 
design of the contents of revelation, in cultivating our spiritual 
affections. These contents are not philosophical, either in the 
metaphysical or scientific sense. They do not really, nor by 
profession, complete the mere incompetences of reason. They 
neither furnish answers to metaphysical inquiries nor do they 
give scientific results, unless those that are subject to revision, 
as all such answers and results coming from the intellect of man 
must ever be. It is not to be wondered at, that men, basing these 
so-called scientific conclusions on Scripture statements, and not on 
observed physical facts which alone could warrant them, should 
be compelled to relinquish their position by the advancement of 
scientific inquiry. The mistake lies in identifying, as some do, 
these conclusions with spiritual truth. It were to be wished that 
those who are, as it is said, for the Bible as against modern science, 
knew a little more of both. It is time we were beyond the position 
of those who say all revelation and no reason, or of those who say 
all reason and no revelation, and recognised what, we think, must 
be the basal belief of every thoughtful mind, that " no truth can 
contradict any truth ; " that we are not, on the one hand, outside of 
revelation such absolutely drivelling creatures as some imagine us 
to be ; nor, on the other, such independent rational beings as others 
think ; that, as we cannot " call spirits from the vasty deep," so 
neither can we educe from our own consciousness all that world of 
spiritual truth, of life and light, which we find the soul of man 
dowered with the capacity of appreciating. 


In the position we have indicated it is possible to stand above 
mere controversy on the question of the relation of the Bible to 
science, and prepare the way for others who may be able to display 
the consonance of all truth. 



There is .an opinion regarding religion and other forms of truth 
pretty generally received at present, and which has much to render 
it acceptable to some minds. It is in keeping with the spirit of 
philosophical unity and desire for systematising so universal in man, 
and also with that love for all forms of truth which such a spirit 
and desire engender. The opinion I speak of is, that a reconciliation 
may be effected between the two forms of truth, religious and 
scientific, that are so often opposed, by stripping from religion that 
which peculiarly and strictly belongs to it, and by lopping off from 
Bcience that which is distinctively its own. The motto of those 
who make this attempt is good, — in all erroneous things there is a 
soul of truth, a sort of rough generalisation, like other striking 
sayings that have been long current. The method of working out 
the problem of reconciliation is, however, far from correct, and the 
result, as might be anticipated, is neither satisfactory to scientific 
nor religious truth. The representation drawn is, that in science 
" positive knowledge does not and never can fill the whole region of 
possible thought ; at the uttermost reach of discovery there arises and 
must ever arise the question, — What lies beyond ? " * What is the 
explanation of that explanation ? is always the question after any 
new relations are discovered ; and every addition, so far from lessen- 
ing the unknown, merely brings the known into wider contact with 
the unknown. So that mental life shows two antithetical modes of 
action, — on the one hand, science seeking the relations of ascertained 
phenomena; and on the other, religion busying itself with the 
" unascertained something which phenomena and their relations 
imply." Science is concerned with the known, but as, according 
to the theory now stated, there must always be something tran- 
scending knowledge, there must always be room for religion, which 

* Herbert Spencer, ** First Principles," p. 16. 


peculiarly concerns itself with that which transcends experience. 
These two, the known and unknown, are thns reckoned two 
acknowledged facts, and any extreme on the one side or the other 
is merely an exaggeration of a great truth. To bring the extremes 
together needs only that each gives np its extravagances. To drop 
from each that which each holds as its own, and so enable them to 
unite on some ultimate something which both can hold, is the road 
to reconciliation. It is remarked by the propounder of this scheme 
of reconciliation, that, if religion and science are to be reconciled, the 
basis of reconciliation must be the deepest and widest and most cer- 
tain of all facts, viz., that the power which the universe manifests to 
us is utterly inscrutable. The reason for this being apparently, 
that ultimate scientific ideas, such as space, time, cause, etc., are all 
representative of realities that cannot be comprehended, and that 
ultimate" religious ideas are, according to a certain school in psycho- 
l°gy> of the same nature ; and in this point of an incomprehensible 
omnipotent Power to which science brings us, we have the con- 
sciousness of that on which religion builds, and also the ground of 
its coalescence with science.* 

The more general criticism that may be made on such a view of 
religion and science as that just summarised is, that it is more 
nearly a representation of what is called metaphysics and science, 
and never once touches the religious consciousness, or spiritual 
truths, properly so-called, related to that consciousness. As an ex- 
position of the metaphysical element in thought it may be exact, but it 
must be added that the writer of it has entirely missed the sphere of 
truth at which he was professedly aiming. As to any attempted recon- 
ciliation of the sphere on which he has really fallen with that of 
positive science, I am very much inclined to think that such a recon- 
ciliation is wholly unnecessary, were it possible, which I am persuaded 
is not the case. Positive science is clear and explicable and always 
legitimate, dealing as it does with facts of sensible experience, to 
which it can always be compelled to refer. Metaphysics as a science 
is altogether illegitimate. It is true of it what the writer, to whom 
reference has been made, says untruly of religious truth, that it tran- 
scends experience. But how that which transcends experience has 
need of reconciliation with experience we are unable to see. Many of 

* Strauss, in his last work, has practically taken up this position; " ob wir Gott 
oder Universum sagen," appears to him the same. "Wir fordern fur unser 
Universum dieselbe Pietat, wie der Fromme alten stils fiir Seinen Gott." 


the questions which are commonly assigned to metaphysics can be 
otherwise perfectly well explained, and others of them are problems 
that no science can solve. Questions are often discussed that are 
vaguely called metaphysical ; but this phraseology has come to have 
something like a popular meaning, and signifies not unfrequently 
that these questions are of rather an abstruse nature, and have been 
banished from true scientific investigation and relegated not, as some 
writers would have us believe, to the sphere of religious conscious- 
ness, but to the realms of dream and moonshine, in other words, to 
metaphysics. Many subjects of thought that have long been held 
by some thinkers as peculiarly belonging to metaphysics, and round 
which, accordingly, a strange charm has been thrown by metaphysical 
imaginings, are such as these, — space and time, the idea of an external 
world, rectitude, duty, and other abstractions, as also whether God 
is a reality, whose existence is manifest to us a priori by the con- 
stitution of our natural faculties. Because these and other questions 
have arisen and must, perhaps, always be started by men, we may 
be compelled to follow them ; but we are by no means compelled 
(and this should always be remembered) to use the means for their 
investigation so often resorted to, and as little are we bound to erect 
a science or related sphere for their home. Their natural home, I 
speak now of the form in which they are generally put, is in the 
phantasmagoria of the human mind. The fact is, that the phase of 
thought which Mr. Spencer mistakes for a religious one is that of 
general speculation, excluding, of course, from this scientific inquiry, 
and approaches more nearly a kind of intellectual exercise of imagina- 
tion, a ranging forth upon ideas either in themselves or in their origin 
imaginary, weaving them into many fanciful results, combining, en- 
larging, unfolding all the scattered, broken hints of things or ideas 
of things, and bodying them forth into a world of transcendent in- 
tellectual and imaginative glory. It is imagination working in the 
leash of logic. What is the general speculation of most ages, when 
it transcends experience whether spiritual or natural, other than 
this we have named ? We can have no wish to despise it. It has 
proved in some respects, and in individual instances, a noble exercise 
of mind, a splendid joy, and some of the greatest thoughts have 
come to us through this means; but we must be careful to dis- 
tinguish it, not only, as Mr. Spencer has done under a different name, 
from scientific knowledge, but also from religious thought, both of 
which are based on experience. The whole realm of so-called meta- 
physical investigation, on the contrary, resembles just such a mental 


exercitation as that now described. Metaphysics is the poetry of 
the intellect, no more. In some respects the best poetry that we 
have inherited from the past ; the purest and the most elevated, at 
its highest, unimpassioned, ethereal, beautiful, reminding us more of 
heaven than of earth. Nothing material enters its domain, nothing 
of time, of place, of individual. It is the finite attempting to re- 
construct the infinite and the eternal ; and what noble essays to- 
wards such a structure do not all times and literatures record from 
Plato to Hegel ! 

But there is exhibited in this attempted reconciliation by Mr. 
Spencer more than the confusion of " imagination in science " with 
religious consciousness and religious truth. Although this is funda- 
mental, there is, besides, an evident mis-conception as to the nature of 
spiritual truth. It is represented as the last result of scientific inves- 
tigation; and what is required to be reconciled is accomplished at the 
outset by a definition of the spheres to be reconciled of feuch a nature 
that the two spheres are represented as really one. Accordingly, all 
that the reconciliation amounts to is, that science should call the 
ultimate reach of thought based on sensible experience "an insoluble 
enigma," and that religion should call the " insoluble enigma " an 
" inscrutable power," and that both should unite in maintaining the 
u insoluble enigma " and the " inscrutable power " as transcending 
intuition and beyond imagination. But, if we describe religious truth 
according to its real nature, this idea of spiritual truth, as the mere con- 
sciousness of an unknown, as a kind of sensation of a sea of nescience 
flowing round the island of knowledge, is altogether opposed to its 
real character. Spiritual truth is, in fact, as objective and real as 
are the phenomena with whose relations science deals. Scripture 
revelation, taken as the representation of religious thought at its 
best, is so far from transcending experience that it is the record of 
spiritual experience, and appeals to it. It is not merely a phase of 
thinking that protests against the relative view of things which 
science gives us. It nowhere, that I am aware of, professes to tran- 
scend the relative. Things out of relation the Bible writers know, 
as everybody else knows, are nothings so far as they or we are 
concerned. It is only as related that anything can become known, 
and this " unknown something " to which science points, although it 
may be the highest purification of the scientific process, can yet 
never transform itself into the spiritual. It is still the present goal 
of scientific effort and inductive generalisation. It is unknown only 
so long as science is restrained by the temporary barrier. The great 



unknown is partially unveiled whenever any portion of the outlying 
darkness is illuminated by the advancing torch of science. I quite 
believe that any one genuinely embracing the truths of the Scripture 
revelation will likewise hail (or be himself) the pioneer of scien- 
tific investigation ; not, however, because he is the guardian of that 
supreme verity, the incomprehensible cause, but because anew region 
of life has been opened up to him which is profoundly apprehensible 
and progress in which he feels to be illimitable. An incomprehensible 
cause, as there was occasion to point in an earlier part of this book, 
is not a religious conception at all, but a scientific generalisation, and 
is not otherwise different from earlier generalisations than in its 
being wider and more diffusive in its action. The progress of science, 
so far from evolving the religious consciousness and spiritual truth, 
has only widened its own prospect and opened new regions of the 
same sphere. The nescience which it feels around its science is given, 
not by the religious consciousness, but through its own sensations 
pressing forward into phenomena as yet inexperienced. This may be 
done by the scientific vision enlarged through a kind of scientific 
imagination which incites it to new effort.* The definition of truth 
that Mr. Spencer himself gives as the accurate correspondence of 
subjective to objective relations ought to have secured him against a 
representation of religious truth and life as consisting in an acknow- 
ledgement of that to which there could be no correspondency, since 
there would be no relations to which this life could correspond. 
How the religious life could have been so persistent in men if it 
consisted in the vague assertion of an ultimate something not in- 
creasing in definiteness, but in indefiniteness, ever receding into the 
impenetrable and unknown, it is very hard to conceive. The re- 
conciliation of Mr. Spencer is a reconciliation produced by the quiet 
removal of what is considered one of the irreconcilable elements. 
A more effective reconciliation would be the confession of science, 
on the one hand, that its facts are only ultimately known as facts of 
consciousness through sense experience, and the admission by re- 
ligion that its facts are ultimately known in consciousness through 
spiritual experience : and the recognition by both that the one class 
of facts is not to be explained by the method of the other — that as 
our life is not wholly sensible so is it not wholly spiritual — that as 

* Every one must see the keenness and vigour of this imaginative power dis- 
played by some of our most famous physical philosophers. Modern investigation 
may be said to have fostered a new variety of imagination. 


religion does not include all the facts of tbe world, neither does 
science embrace all onr life — that science corresponds to that view 
of man which is what has been called the psychological view of 
man's mental nature as distinct from the view vaguely called in- 
tuitive — that there is a harmony between Scripture revelation, its 
objects and methods, and man's nature as a spiritual being which 
science is so much inclined to overlook, and which in its occasional 
refusal to recognise it has evinced a really unscientific position, not 
to speak of its attitude towards the revelation in Scripture, which as 
it evolves these spiritual faculties can alone take up the process 
that psychological science hands over to it, and carry it to its ulti- 
mate issue. From what is called the intuitive school of thinking, on 
the other hand, we have had a mixture of both methods and a con- 
fusion of revealed truths with scientific truths, which has ended in 
almost destroying the landmark between science and religion. This 
latter method seems an attempt to bring the higher intuitions under 
the law of the understanding merely. One defect, however, must be 
acknowledged in the psychological mode of thought ; we mean its 
frequent endeavour to account for some purely spiritual principle 
entirely on its own method. In this it clearly enough fails, and ought 
to have stopped short and recognised the point where the spiritual 
world produces the life and thought peculiar to the spiritual nature. 
The one sphere will, of course, often blend with the other, but it is 
the business of a method that boasts of its analytic process to dis- 
solve such compounds, or at least to pronounce them to be complex. 
The late Mr. Mansel in the interest of religion tried what Mr. 
Spencer attempted in the interest of science. "Against pantheism, 
which virtually annihilates causation and escapes the solution of the 
problem of the relation between God and His creatures, and posi- 
tivism, which holds that the only office of philosophy is to observe 
and note the constant relations of phenomena," * he, after Hamilton, 
maintains an absolute in philosophy, not however as a problem to be 
solved by reason, but as a reality to be believed in, although above 
reason. Mr. Mansel was not more content than Mr. Spencer that 
religion and philosophy should go on side by side, but was anxious to 
reconcile them in his own way. The fact, however, that they do run 
side by side and occupy distinct provinces does not, as Mr. Mansel 
appeared to imagine, argue opposition. To conclude opposition be- 
tween philosophy, or rather science, — for I prefer that name as 

* Mansel's " Bampton Lectures." 


well as the thing it signifies, — and revealed truth, from the bare 
fact of difference in the objects of their pursuit, is quite irrelevant. 
No normal mode of thought or life that follows its peculiar object is 
opposed to any other normal mode, or can be said to need reconcilia- 
tion with it. The reconciliation, however, in philosophy which Mr. 
Mansel worked out is not at all different from that worked out 
by Mr. Spencer, although Mr. Mansel repudiates Spencer's theory, 
as being a combination of positivist doctrine with pantheistic as- 
sumptions. Yet his quotation from Hamilton's discussions on 
this point, and given as his own opinion on the subject, is ex- 
pressed in language as nearly equivalent to Mr. Spencer's as two 
independent thinkers could state such an opinion. The insolu- 
ble enigma of Mr. Spencer is in Hamilton's language this : " that 
by a wonderful revelation " (not in our sense or in the usual sense 
of that term) " we are in the very consciousness of our inability to 
conceive aught above the relative and finite inspired with a belief in 
the existence of something unconditioned beyond the sphere of all com- 
prehensible reality." The italics are mine. I am unacquainted with 
any materialism or positivism that would not subscribe to this 
safe "belief." It would perfectly well embody the faith of many a 
pantheist so-called. It is quite true that Mr. Mansel, after Hamil- 
ton, advanced into this sphere beyond the comprehensible and brought 
back from " the void and formless infinite " a series of truths to 
array against materialism and positivism that refused to follow them 
thither. But such a process is precisely that of the mixed mode of 
the intuitive school which has been already noticed. It confounds 
what is given in revelation and in sense experience, a proceeding 
that tends neither to the improvement of science nor the compre- 
hension of revelation. It does not matter in the least in what 
manner the doctrine variously called the unconditioned, the abso- 
lute, the insoluble enigma, is introduced into philosophy. Whether 
it be done as Cousin does by an immediate and intuitive knowledge, 
or as Hamilton and Mansel do by belief, or as Mr. Spencer does as 
the ultimate verge of thought, — in any case it is a bad psychology 
and if it shows anything, certainly shows the barrenness of meta- 
physics considered as a science, how utterly without data it is, 
how in the sphere of science and philosophy it ignores the first les- 
sons of both in basing its conceptions of life, and its reasonings on 
vital phenomena, not upon actual observations and experience, but 
up on conjectural surmises. It is a cloud pillar with base in the air 
and summits out of sight. 


It has been said that the stationariness of the ideas with which 
metaphysics deals is a proof of their reality ; the stationariness may 
be also taken as evidence of the falsity of the methods pursued by 
metaphysicians in their attempted analysis of these ideas. The 
manner in which certain ideas of this kind can be npheld and pnt 
through logical processes with varying results, shows how shadowy 
and unreal the ideas are in some instances, in others it shows how 
unsuitable are the processes. The fact is, that the leading terms 
forming the backbone of metaphysical thought are susceptible of 
very various meanings from their disconnection with experience. 
They are, as was before said, very often the outcome of imagination, 
and every imaginative combination is constantly fluctuating even in 
the same mind. For to what does such combination conform but 
to the sportive fancy of the man and not to a reality without him ? 

It is in some such way as this that Mr. Mansel is enabled to play 
fast and loose with the terms absolute and infinite, and to exhibit 
through a series of slides, worked certainly on logical not scenic 
principles, dissolving views now of the absolute, now of the infinite, 
and again of both together. But an effect altogether different might 
be produced were any one to take the same liberty with these terms 
as Mr. Mansel has done, and which any one is equally entitled to 
do. For example, at page 50 of his "Bampton Lectures 1 ' Mr. Mansel 
says, the absolute must be accepted by reason as one and simple. 
But we should like to ask, why must it be so accepted P If we cannot 
know it, how can we say in what manner it must be accepted ? And 
what necessity are we under of imagining it with any qualities 
that Mr. Mansel may fancy? Mr. Mansel, it would seem, chose 
that definition rather than any other which he might have selected, 
and which perhaps might have suited the word simply as a word, 
in order that he might enjoy the satisfaction of exercising his logic 
upon it. Starting with such a representation of the absolute as 
that it is unity without attributes, and that it is featureless, it does 
not require Mr. Mansel's logic to show that this absolute in relation 
to cause, i.e., in becoming cause, annihilates the peculiar unity that 
he had ascribed to it, inasmuch as the idea of cause would admit 
the conception of an absolute as productive or non-productive. 
Any one may reply to this, however, that no person contended for 
such a unity except Mr. Mansell, and all that he can do is to knock 
down his own mark. There is a confusion of thought which Mr. 
Mansel has here fallen into, and of whieh, in a succeeding review of a 
reviewer, he maintains that he kept clear. In arguing that the abso- 


Into in becoming a cause either becomes imperfect or more perfect,* 
he plainly introduces the idea of perfection into that of the absolute ; 
yet we find him at page 154 of his " Philosophy of the Conditioned," 
charging Mr. Mill with misconception of his definition of the abso- 
lute as "oat of all relation/' and confounding it with Sir William 
Hamilton's, as "involving the idea of perfection." In his process 
of demolition, if not in his definition, Mr. Mansel uses both weapons 
and is fairly enough open to» criticism from both sides. From the 
view of the absolute as the perfect, I cannot see how unity any more 
than diversity ought to characterise it. No more can I see how the 
perfect in becoming productive should annihilate itself. It may 
outwardly express its inherent character, but that is the only serious 
consequence which an ordinary mind would anticipate from such an 
action. A tree is not the Iobs perfect that it is productive of flower 
and fruit. Once having introduced the idea of perfection into the 
absolute, he drops it when it suits the form of his argument, as, e.g., 
in the argument based on the condition of consciousness, as a rela- 
tion between subject and object. In this argument, while keeping 
exclusively to the representation that the absolute is that which is 
out of all relation, it is easy to show that this absolute, that is, Mr. 
Mansel's temporary and imaginative representation of it, cannot 
be given in consciousness, neither can such an absolute be conscious 
of anything. But why should he not combine the idea of per- 
fection with that of " free from all relation " in this argument, as 
well as in the one already noticed ? For no other reason, that I can 
see, than that, by his doing so, he would not be able to produce the 
same sharp logical contradictory. We are entitled, however, to set 
up his own absolute again, even if we are not permitted to imagine 
one for ourselves. And having done so, I would ask, What kind of 
perfection is it that is possessed by a consciousness which is out of 
relation to all consciousnesses ? For our part we should consider 
this to be rather the sum of imperfection. For what is the perfec- 
tion of consciousness but simply that of being conscious to the 
highest degree and to the fullest extent. 

Nor is Mr. Mansel more satisfactory in his treatment of the other 
metaphysical idea on which he discourses, viz., infinity. It is only 
another mark set up within very easy range of the psychological 
artillery afterwards brought to bear against it ; a kind of phantom 
which he creates, then uncreates. At page 45 of his " Bampton Lec- 

* " Bampton Lectures," p. 52. 


hires," lie calls it that which is " free from all possible limitation," 
" that which can receive no additional attribute or mode of exist- 
ence." Such a field offers strong temptations to any one with half 
the lecturer's ability for sporting infinite psychological contradic- 
tions in his first Bense of the word. Within this wide domain a 
hand less deft than his could play many tricks. But any one who 
remembers that this infinite of which mention is here made so 
confidently as to its attributes and* their exercise, is also that 
which is out of all consciousness, and out of all knowledge, and be- 
yond all definition, that which is summed up shortly as beyond the 
comprehensible, — any one who remembers all this will not be sur- 
prised when told that this infinite when regarded as a person may 
be represented as composed of infinite contradictions. To be sure, 
it is quite as easy to imagine it in this way as in any other, if it is 
to be imagined at all ; and Mr. Mansel is quite free to have his 
play of fancy, but he should not forget that it is only fancy moving 
with logical apparatus through the " void and formless infinite," 
when he represents every infinite mode of consciousness, at page 51 
of his " Bampton Lectures," extending over the field of every other, 
and when he draws the conclusion that this common action involves 
perpetual antagonism. As for instance, that infinite power can do 
all things, and that infinite goodness must, therefore, be able to do 
evil ; that infinite justice exacts the utmost penalty, while infinite 
mercy pardons the sinner ; that infinite wisdom knows all that is 
coming, while infinite freedom is at liberty to do and forbear. 

I shall not again touch upon the question of antinomies nor 
allude to the criticism that has been made on similar statements 
from the side of philosophy, viz., that the term infinite may possibly 
be applied to some of these attributes, while others are more fitly 
designated as perfect and more figuratively only as infinite ; # but 
I would object at the very outset to the representation here made 
of the infinite as applied to mental consciousness. No mode of 
consciousness, be it finite or infinite, can be intelligibly represented 
in the quantitative manner in which Mr. Mansel represents the 
modes he names. To figure mental action as an interminable plane 
stretching out illimitably over many other planes, that is, many- 
other mental actions, is, every one must feel, a picture of mental 
states that would not satisfy the pictorial cupidity of a child. To 
answer seriously any argument founded on such an imaginative 

* Locke : " An Essay concerning Human Understanding.*' 


representation would be quite as ludicrous as to answer an argu- 
ment drawn from Milton's representation of the different spheres 
of heaven, chaos, earth, and hell, the mere drawing of which upon 
a board shows their source and purely imaginative value. Milton's 
laboured descriptions of the fields of empyrean light, of the floor 
of heaven and of the spirits that fell through it, of the huge form 
and the flood, which, every one knows, may serve, if we reduced 
them to something like philosophical shape and language, as very 
fair examples of the metaphysical representations of Mr. Hansel. 
But the latter does what the former had not any occasion to do, or had 
poetical taste and philosophical insight to restrain him from doing, 
he draws what are meant to be scientific or practical conclusions 
from his imaginative creations. After imagining the unimaginable 
consciousness of the infinite, it is easy to imagine any amount of 
contradictions that would arise from its imaginary qualities. The 
contradictions are involved in the very imagination of such an 
entity. One can, with the help of the author of " The Limits of Re- 
ligious Thought," imagine all these infinites, that he describes in a 
kind of mixed metaphor, not now as illimitable planes, but as omni- 
potent forces of equal magnitude, acting in opposite directions, only 
one does not see with him, that much antagonism would be produced 
in such a case. Most people would be inclined to imagine as a re- 
sultant of this, a state of stable equilibrium, and in this case many 
of the questions started by Mr. Mansel would, if this imagination be 
the correct one, never have occurred, since the facta of good and evil, 
for example, would never have existed under the condition just de- 
scribed. I shall not follow him in his application of the conditions 
of consciousness to this second product of the metaphysical imagina- 
tion. He may well grant that he has, in his own language, de- 
stroyed the (his) conception of the absolute and infinite; but we 
cannot say that his impotency logically to support this conception 
" leads us to believe in the existence of the Infinite which we can- 
not conceive, because denial involves a contradiction no less than 
assertion of its conceivability."* On the contrary, I am inclined to 
think that the greater contradiction is the rejection of the con- 
ception on the grounds he has disputed, and its acceptation on the 
basis of what he calls belief. For after all is said, it is only a 
belief, not in a conception, using this term in its proper logical 
meaning, but in an imagination ; and if we believed all that we 

* " Bampton Lectures," p. 95. 

t 2 


could imagine, we would have an infinite, or to speak more correctly 
an indefinite number of infinites. Bacon wished in his day for some 
Divine dialectic or treatise on the limits and uses of reason in spiritual 
things. Mr. Mansel proposed to himself to supply this long stand- 
ing want, but his work is virtually only a kind of dialectic of imagina- 
tion, or the limits and uses of the reason in metaphysics. We are 
fully convinced that, like Mr. Spencer, he has never touched the 
subject-matter proper of spiritual truth, especially spiritual truth 
as exhibited in the contents of Scripture revelation, which is his cri- 
terion of this form of truth as it is mine. Revelation is very far 
from being concerned with metaphysical conceptions at all, either 
of the Divine or anything else, and it is very far from requiring it 
as our duty, as is asserted in the Lectures (p. 189), to think God 
personal and believe Him infinite, in the sense in which these terms 
are held by the lecturer. Scripture has as little to do with meta- 
physics as with physics. It is this erroneous idea that leads the 
lecturer to that ultimate development of his principle, of the two 
ways in which we can contemplate God, viz., either to transcend 
the conditions of human thought, and expand the human con- 
sciousness to the infinitude of its object, which is a speculative 
knowledge of God, and the result of such transcendentalism he him- 
self has shown to be a tissue of self-contradictions ; or to keep within 
proper limits, and view the object of thought in a manner accom- 
modated to human capacities, which is a regulative knowledge of 
God by a positive method. 

In partial agreement with this latter method, I grant that all 
our knowledge, whether of spiritual or physical truth, must be 
confined to those views of it that are coincident with our nature ; 
but I should prefer saying, that our nature in either sphere is 
coincident with the truth to be acquired or capable of becoming so. 
There seems no satisfactory reason, so far as I have seen, why the 
truth should always be represented as mangled to suit our incapa- 
city. By asserting this, we are not to be held as maintaining, what 
is manifestly not true, that we are at present capable of perceiving 
all truth. All that is contended for is, that we have the faculties, 
which, by natural growth under proper conditions, will each in 
their own sphere become capable of a wider and fuller perception of 
those things which are now but faintly perceived ; that even with 
respect to the sum of all perceptions, the spiritual perception of the 
Highest, as there is a possibility of becoming perfect like God, there 
is the possibility involved in that perfection of fully knowing God. 



It always appears to me that the whole question of adaptation 
of truth to the faculties of man — to what are called by logicians 
and psychologists the forms and laws of thought, is from beginning 
to end full of great error. The true way is more likely to be, that 
our faculties are fitted by their proper exercise for the perception of 
what is spiritual or natural. This seems the proper ground to take, 
being, as it is, confirmed by much of our individual experience, as 
any man of deep spiritual mind can testify, and as advancing 
physical theories are daily tending to establish. What we know 
in our lowest condition of capacity, we may know quite truly : the 
world of the jelly fish is as true to it as a man's world is to him ; 
the world of a pagan is no more a bundle of accommodated rela- 
tions than is the expanded Christian world. If it be said, as is 
often the case, that we ljave truth through a disqualifying medium, 
there is a foreclosing of all profitable discussion. If our faculties 
be not adapted for the discernment of truth, whatever be its form, 
then, of course, the matter ends there, and we need not be over 
anxious to know anything further. We can guide ourselves in the 
spiritual sphere, as some would have us do in the natural, in the 
fashion of Pyrrhonists, sceptical of all truth, yet practically careful 
of our ways. But if, as most people confidently feel, man has capa- 
cities for knowing things natural as well as things Divine (although 
by different methods), then we need not entertain any anxiety about 
what is somewhat erroneously called accommodation in their com- 
munication. The accommodation cannot in such a case be suspected 
as a method of palming instruction upon errant faculties, which is a 
usual mode of speaking of it, but as a wise tempering or explanation 
of truth which may at first appear new and strange, presented, how- 
ever, to faculties capable of receiving and understanding it in a 
degree of extent and not in that of correctness. From the first 
accommodation (to keep that name) to the last, it is truth and no 
lie. The accommodation from our present point of view need not 
alter the true to the false, while it explains it, for this would be an 
absolute contradiction. A child's picture of a horse, and the name 
" horse," convey at different stages of mental development, not dif- 
erent ideas — varying truths, such as regulative and speculative, but 
one and the same truth or fact. And the principle now laid down 
is one of wide application, not only to physical truth, but to the 
point, so much disputed, of a gradual revelation whose initial stage, 
and far beyond, was a sort of pictorial representation. This prin- 
ciple with its application, although explaining many apparent diffi- 


culties in the spiritual revelation itself, such as its incompleteness 
from our present standpoint, and difficulties also in the admixtures 
of opinions which from first to last it contains, and which I have 
summed up elsewhere under the name of provincialisms, cannot 
be fully entered into here. 

While granting, therefore, that knowledge and faculty must be 
coincident, I imagine that Mr. Mansel would not, in the natural 
sphere, have maintained that physical knowledge is regulative, simply 
from the fact of its being related to us, as we know all knowledge 
must be in every sphere of truth. Because we may transcend the 
sphere of the natural we do not, therefore, transcend the conditions 
of all knowing. But to make these conditions limitations, as Mr. 
Mansel does, reveals a singular misapprehension of the meaning 
and nature of conditions. The conditions under which we live are 
the whole circumstances that minister to our vitality, not the circum- 
stances that destroy vital action. A tree is not limited by its con- 
ditions ; but expands under them. The fact of a revelation, which 
Mr. Mansel never doubts, shows that the Being who revealed Him- 
self in the manner therein mentioned, is capable of making Himself 
known to man. He is not reduced to the puzzling contradictions 
supposed to be necessary in such an unveiling. The perfection of 
Being, we should imagine, is not, as our author seems to think, to 
exist in complete exclusiveness, but in more profound and intimate 
and universal relations. Being, in Mr. Mansel's highest conception 
of it, looks very like something non-intelligible, if it is not a non- 
entity. Being in relations is, however, in different words, Being in- 
telligible. Reason can never enjoin it as a duty " to believe that 
which we cannot comprehend." * The God of all genuine spiritual 
revelation is "the living God" of the psalmist, who "at sundry 
times and in divers manners " revealed Himself. By overlooking 
this, and fixing attention on a Being out of relation, all the supposed 
logical difficulties have arisen and the conclusion has been drawn 
that God is incomprehensible, or at least, that only a regulative 
knowledge of God is to be gained by man. 

One in whom some attributes are, to us in our language, infinite, 
is one whose* relations to us through these attributes may be multi- 
plied infinitely, and contemplated as inexhaustible. He is one 
infinitely related, that is, in an infinite degree. Instead of one out 
of our finite existence and inhabiting an irrelative sphere, he is one 

* " Bampton Lectures," p. 96. 


filling to overflowing the human sphere — one in whom we live and 
move and have our being. The infinite, if the word be used to speak 
of the Divine nature, is precisely the same infinite that we think 
of in connection with number or space ; and no one ever says that 
we do not know number or space, because our conception of their 
infinity is somewhat vague. I have little inclination in the present 
connection to enter upon the discussion of this idea ; but I am deeply 
impressed with the belief that much of the confusion attending it 
might have been avoided by a more careful consideration of its 
origin. Infinity is the expression of hope, in a backward or for- 
ward look, in relation to certain experiences ; the sign for the pos- 
sibility of something unattained ; the mark that we have not yet set 
our boundary to something, not, however, a confession that we never 
will. In this sense it may be taken as an empirical conclusion sub- 
ject to revision. The infinite applied to any positive experience means 
that the series is unclosed ; that there will be gathering experiences. 
If we suppose the series concluded in any subject, e.g., in number, 
however great it may be, the infinite vanishes. The fundamental 
idea in the infinite is progression. It is often asked, and Mr. Man- 
sel asks, and answers the question, Have we a positive idea of the 
infinite ? He however, labours under a radical defect in the state- 
ment of his argument. He starts from the conception of an infinite 
something, which is, in plain terms, a contradiction ; for everything 
by its conception is, in the very act of conceiving it, rendered 
finite. Something finite is something of which the series is con- 
cluded, to whose progression we set a boundary. Thus what iB 
fundamental in the infinite is destroyed. Infinity is only possible in 
a flux, and implies a moving series. The term positive, applied to 
such a growing idea as this looks somewhat equivocal, and mainly 
so from the negative form in which it is usually expressed. There 
is a positive enough sense in infinity when we conceive it as con- 
tinuity, which is the essential thought in infinity. Names are too 
apt to dominate our opinions, and the infinite is an instance of such 
a dominance. Expressed as continuity or progression the negative 
form vanishes, and infinity becomes quite as positive a thought as 
uniformity of nature, for example. This uniformity simply means 
that we have not had an experience that contradicts a universal re- 
gularity in natural occurrences ; even as infinity or continuity means 
that our experience does not contradict progression in some special 

There is another remark which should be made in connection with 


the question of the infinite. It is often reasoned, and Mr. Mansel's 
most destructive criticism is based upon such reasoning, that the 
infinite applied to an object renders such object incomprehensible. 
This is quite contrary to the nature and origin of the idea of infinity 
which arises in our minds by the addition of finites of precisely the 
same kind. Infinity never alters the nature of anything or any per- 
son, for by such alteration the infinite would be terminated and a 
new series begun. The infinity of space rests upon the experience of 
men finding no bounds to repeated ideas of extension of the same 
nature. There must, however, be entire homogeneity in the added 
ideas. We know that the conception of any given finite space and 
the infinity of space refer to one and the same space — the ideas differ 
only in extent. The infinity lies in the added sameness of a con- 
tinuous series ; and incomprehensibility, if there be such, can only 
be of the quantity not the quality, of the idea. If the idea be clear 
as a finite idea, infinity does not render it any more obscure; if 
there be any difference by its repetition to infinity it will gain in 
distinctness. Time finite is the same as time raised to infinity. The 
infinite, if it were heterogeneous, could not, in the algebraic symbol, 
return upon itself, thus 00. It is only by an entire and absolute 
homogeneity that it can do so. 

In like manner, if we actually or metaphorically apply the infinite 
to the attributes of God, we do not in the smallest degree alter the 
nature of these attributes conceived as finite. If infinity be applied 
to the power of God for instance, the power in God is not altered 
from power in man by its continuity in an endless series. Nor is 
this so from the mere fact that we could not speak intelligently if 
it were different, and that if the ideas were different different names 
would be necessary ; but it is so from the fact of its being infinite. 
If the conception we have of the idea of power in its finite form be 
changed in the progressive series, the series is broken by such 
change, and the infinite vanishes. The conception of power with 
which we started has terminated, and the new infinite with which we 
begin is an infinite unintelligibility. Before power can be raised to 
infinity, it is necessary that there be a continuity of the same kind of 
power. And so is it with other attributes. The infinite mercy of God 
is the simple idea of finite mercy repeated without end. The fact that 
there are classes of conceptions, to which such an idea as that of in- 
finity is inapplicable, will be found to lie in the other fact, that these 
classes of conceptions are incapable of repetition in their simplicity. 
The very conception of infinity, as applied to any idea, is prima facie 


evidence that this idea is in itself simple and comprehensible. The 
bare continuity implied in infinity is a continuity of absolute same- 
ness. Infinity is based on number, — the most simple of all ideas, so 
far as homogeneity is concerned ; and as the infinity of number is a 
repetition of units in an endless series, of which every unit is pre- 
cisely similar to every other, so the infinity of a virtue, or of any 
attribute, is a repetition of units, so to speak, of which the first in the 
series is like to each succeeding addition, and, if the series were com- 
pleted, of the same nature throughout. 

Viewed in this manner, the knowledge of God is not removed 
from us by its infinity, but brought more determinately within our 
vision ; infinity being, as applied to the idea of God, another name 
for simplicity, or, as we have it in the Bible, unchangeableness. 
Infinity in the Divine is simply continued unchangeableness. What 
we know of Him and His love and justice, or other attributes, is 
no mere regulative knowledge that may one day be dissipated as 
the veriest ignorance, but is a sure basis for a progression in the 
knowledge that Paul speaks of in the expression, knowing as we are 
known. The knowledge in par 6 is like in nature to the whole that 
is afterwards to be revealed. The infinity lies more in the fulness 
and variety of manifestation of the character of God as already 
known, than in incomprehensible contradictions behind this know- 
ledge. If it be otherwise, infinity does not describe it. The in- 
finity of space is the space that we already know, infinitely expanded. 
The infinity of Divine mercy is the exercise of a mercy we already 
know infinitely multiplied, not indefinitely transformed into some- 
thing we do not know. Mr. Mansel's regulative knowledge is in 
the last resort the nescience of Mr. Spencer, and both are, however 
applicable to metaphysical thought, totally inapplicable to spiritual 

One of the most singular things in thought is the manner in 
which metaphysics runs away with a man in argument. It may 
be imagined that the tendency is not so strong now as it has been, 
but it is still powerful enough in theological or religious subjects 
to require some notice. The nullity of result in many such cases, 
which was formerly so evident in dissertations like those that 
treated of the eternal nature of truth, may still be observed. Start- 
ing from an assertion that there is a common and allowed distinc- 
tion between necessary and contingent truths, we have all seen the 
highest air-castles erected. And this is done simply by maintaining 
at the outset that the sort of truths called necessary have such and 


such attributes inherently and essentially, and beside all proof, 
merely because no attempt is made to reduce them to fact, whence 
the correctness or absurdity of these statements would be manifest. 
Instead of this, what is done ? One attribute after another is added 
to the creation. Begun in imagination, the structure advances under 
the same mastery. These necessary and eternal truths are to imagina- 
tion clearly relations between ideas themselves, since they regard the 
essence of things, and are not in reru/m natura. But it follows that 
they must be Divine ; for necessary and eternal truths being neces- 
sary and eternal relations, it is impossible that the relations should 
be more necessary and eternal than the subject of them, that is, the 
ideas ; for unless these ideas be necessary and eternal, how can the 
relations be so P But what is necessary and eternal but the Divine ? 
Therefore they are relations between Divine ideas, as the Divine is 
the only stable substance that can sustain these immutable relations. 
And were it not for these Divine ideas, there would be no eternal 
essence to supply necessary and eternal relations, nor would there be 
necessary truths, and consequently no science, which can only be of 
necessary truths. And in this way we have a proof given us, in the 
course of a subsidiary argument, that there must necessarily be a 
God, as the inmost ground and central support of the whole intel- 
lectual world. 

I give this as a fair specimen at any time of a metaphysical argu- 
ment and of its outcome. It may not always run in precisely the 
same groove. The state of science will hardly permit this; for 
science has demonstrated clearly enough, that it needs no such postu- 
late as necessary truth, or a God even, to make itself possible, — nay, 
that science is only in strictness possible, by eliminating these m 
scientific inquiry; that the physios of an inquirer like Democritus, 
who had no supposition of a mind in nature, works better than the 
physics of a Plato with an admixture of metaphysics. I am quite 
aware that this may be denied ; but it may stand as correct until a 
metaphysician or — what is much the same as things are — a theo- 
logian has shown any one branch of science to have been forwarded, 
in any age of the world, by metaphysical positions. And if the meta- 
physical mode of approaching subjects known to us, and within the 
range of scientific investigation, leads to conclusions so illusory and 
unprofitable, it is a fair inference that in what lies outside science, 
its basis being no whit truer, its results cannot be any more certain 
and useful. Arguing with symbols and equations, that stand for 
nothing that we know of, we may effect any result we desire. Tak- 


ing our start, for example, from the point that the metaphysicians 
have brought ns to, truth itself must be the same with the real 
essence and substance of the Divine nature; for whatever exists 
is either God or effect of God, and so it is with necessary truth. 
But necessary truth is not an effect of God, and, according to the 
hypothesis, must therefore be God : for if it is the effect of God, it 
would not be necessary, which is against the supposition ; or if it 
be the effect of God and necessary, then, as every necessary effect 
must have a necessary cause, nothing being in the cause given that 
is not in the antecedent or combination of antecedents, there must 
have been a cause necessarily determined to act — that is, a necessary 
agent, which is also an unintelligent agent. And if truth be the 
effect of God, as a necessary agent, then, antecedently to this effect, 
there was no truth or knowledge, because nothing known, since 
God in producing truth acted quite in the dark, or without intelli- 
gence. The same will apply to design. Antecedent to a present 
order and design there was neither, since God, acting necessarily, 
acted without order and without design. Moreover, it would also 
follow, if we give ourselves rein enough, that the perfection of the 
Divine nature was dependent on something else that necessarily de- 
termined it to act. In like manner, we might go on constructing 
a world of ideas in relation to beings and existences, which we had 
no means of verifying. And this is the root error of all meta- 
physical and theologico-metaphysical thought: that its subject- 
matter transcends experience, that its method is arbitrary, and its 
conclusions futile. The description of the Schoolmen respecting the 
number of angels that could dance upon the point of a needle is as 
capable of verification in result, and as pertinent to our life as is 
much of the metaphysics of the present day. The phase of thought 
is the same now as then, the symbolic forms only, with which it 
works, being altered a little. Its effects now are precisely similar to 
what history tells us of its former effects. It provokes controversy 
without supplying the means of allaying it ; it impedes legitimate 
scientific thought and religious knowledge ; it confounds real know- 
ledge and individual fancy, and produces the oppositions of science 
falsely so-called, and is in the main wholly unfruitful. Science can- 
not be developed through metaphysics ; in fact, as we have seen, its 
ideas are confessed to be stationary, while science is progressive. 
Neither can religious knowledge or spiritual truth be discovered 
from a metaphysical point of view. There is a scientific method, 
and there is a method in Divine knowledge, and the metaphysical 


method is outside both. In the possession of a Divine life only can 
we know spiritual or Divine truth. The reconciliation of this truth 
with philosophy, which has been noticed, errs in supposing that the 
latter contains the former. And just as in earlier times Augustine 
erred in thinking that he had found the reconciliation of religion 
and philosophy by Platonising the gospel of Christianity, so Mr. 
Spencer errs in imagining that he has found this reconciliation by 
Christianising metaphysics, and Mr. Mansel by the reverse process 
of finding metaphysics in Christianity. 





" If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." 

The relation between Christianity and morality, either in the in- 
dividual or in society, is as yet very ill defined. It is disputed 
whether there be any distinction between the principles of Christ's 
kingdom and the moral principles which we are usually supposed 
to derive from experience. On the one hand, there is said to be 
something altogether new in Christ's teaching ; and, on the other, 
that these supposed new principles were neither brought by Him 
into the world, nor will they disappear with Him out of it. Opinions 
differ, too, in regard to the quality of the principles of Christianity. 
" How wide as the heavens is the ancient conception of virtue from 
the Christian," says Lange in his " Oeschichte des^Materialismus;" 
and John Stuart Mill went bo far as to say that the abstract standard 
of morals might be at all times replaced by the concrete one, What 
would Christ have thought ? while Strauss sees in Christianity a 
veritable cultus of poverty and beggary, and quotes against it, with 
the fullest approval, Buckle's well known description of the gospel 
of industry and trade. I am not altogether persuaded that either of 
these opposed views is based upon a correct conception of Christ and 
the Christian religion and its truths. If the idea of Christianity, on 
which the men now mentioned and those who think with them pro- 
ceed, is not altogether false, their explanation of Christian principles 
is an outside and superficial one. They fail to seize the peculiarities 
of the system which they seek to explain. To represent, as they 
generally do, the revelation through Christ — for it is better to take 
this as representative of the religious idea — as a code of morals, 
is scarcely less erroneous than to represent it, as some have done, as 
a system of theology, or a valuable quarry for such a system. 
There are two preliminary objections to such a view of Christian- 
ity besides the objection to be drawn from a view of its nature as a 
whole. It goes against the opinion of its founder ; and, regarded in 
the light of amoral system merely, it will break down in its declared 


purpose with the individual and the race as a new and renovating 
spiritual force in the world. It can, I think, be made evident, that 
it is necessary to distinguish Christianity not merely from theology, 
but from morality, if we are to have a rational understanding of it, 
or feel its influence in our lives. 

Except by some who have pursued a line of attack on Christianity 
in a way that the majority of calmly thinking men must regard as at 
least indiscriminate, the estimate of the ideal in the teaching of 
Jesus is, by those who have given the subject their honest considera- 
tion, a very high one. It may be considered by many that the 
Christian religion is honoured in being thus regarded. But it is 
plain that Christianity would neither be honourable nor estimable 
were it not moral and in harmony, too, with what is highest in our 
moral nature and perceptions of the right and true.* But it is more 
than this. The distinctiveness of its truths does not lie in their 
being moral, but in their being spiritual. As has been partly seen, 
they are for spiritual beings, and imply a spiritual life in man and 
not simply a moral nature. I shall not dwell here upon the division 
of man's nature into organic, intellectual, moral, and spiritual, with 
their correspondent affections. The sciences have made us familiar 
with the first three members of the group, and our present inquiry 
has familiarised us by this time with the last. What I wish at pre- 
sent to call attention to, is the complexity in the life of man. Each 
part of this complex whole has, so to speak, a mode of existence 
peculiar to itself. It is true that we can only see these modes in 
combination, yet we know that there are separate functions, special 
work, and special laws for each. When a man, for instance, has ac- 
quired intelligence, no matter how it is acquired, for it is not with 
the origin but with the existence of things that we have at present 
to do, it means an acquisition of faculties and energies that go out 
in directions widely different from those of his merely physical and 
organic powers. He has a new sphere of being. If moral feelings 
are acquired, they are so acquired through conditions that we must 
describe in other terms than those of intellect and sense. The 
sphere is that of beings like himself, and the conditions are a con- 
formation of actions with certain well known and understood laws, 
as we say. 

* There is, however, it should be observed, a moral element in other questions 
besides that of spiritual truths, and which yet are in themselves distinguished 
from ethical conceptions strictly considered. There is a morality of intellect 
and esthetic taste. The outcome of neither is estimable when it outrages the 
moral sensibility. 


The same thing holds of the highest member of the complex exist- 
ence, the spiritual. 

The relative position of each member of this complex existence 
is a matter of some importance. The fact that we have spiritual 
faculties does not carry with it any call to neglect the other elements 
of our life ; no more than the fact that we have a physical life should 
obscure the fact that we have spiritual faculties. Extreme principles 
of living, based on the exclusion of one or more of the elements 
of our life, have been frequently tried. But between the principle, 
" Let us eat and drink," of physical, and the extreme of spiritual, 
exclusiveness, that has sometimes in the form of asceticism run coun- 
ter to what are often reckoned the instinctive feelings of morality, 
in overlooking the obligations of filial and conjugal affection, there 
is not much to choose. There can be little question that the highest 
life for man is that mode of it which, through its successive stages 
in growth and development, gathers up and carrieB forward all its 
other forms of life, and whose ultimate character is united by an 
inseparable bond with its first. He is the true type of man who 
is a physical, intelligent, moral, and spiritual being. But, while 
neglect of one or more elements of our complex life must be fatal to 
any true growth in a man, we shall find that the interrelation of 
these parts brings with it a necessary subordination of one part to 
another. Where it appears — for I do not say the case will arise 
— that a physical, intellectual, or moral principle would be detri- 
mental to spiritual life, the law of the highest would be the rule for 

It is the confusion of the spiritual with the moral that I have 
to complain of in some thinkers on the question now under re- 
view. Such men come to the Scripture revelation, and see in its 
contents purely moral elements. They suppose that the kingdom 
of God there spoken of, and unveiled, is a great moral kingdom, a 
system differing from others that are known to us, if it does differ 
at all from them, only in the type of its grandeur and beauty. 
Fichte comes within view of another conception of this kingdom, 
and nearer the reality of it as pourtrayed by Christ. The revelation 
of the kingdom of God is, for him, the essence of Christianity, and 
that kingdom is the kingdom of freedom, which is gained through 
the sinking of one's own will in God's will. The doctrine of the 
kingdom of heaven is, in truth, according to him, the principle of a 
new world-government. I shall have occasion to notice later on, 
how such a position would naturally bring Fichte, as it actually did, 


to another position in relation to social questions, which is also at one 
with Christianity, viz., that of unselfishness as against the maxim 
of self interest in trade and political economy. 

The kingdom of Christ must be approached in Fichte's manner 
or in some similar way. Instead of this, however, it is approached, 
as I said, from the ontside. What may be called the men of the 
Nicodemns type, men of thonghtf nl minds, of honest purpose, of pure 
intentions, with a kindly leaning towards Christ and the Christian 
religion, have dealt with it more from the moral standpoint. They 
would desire nothing more than to see the system gain power and 
influence in society, perhaps under some modifications. Noble and 
virtuous themselves, as they could hardly fail to be, having the dis- 
positions they have, and living under the influence, however indirect, 
of Christian truth and Christ's example, they cannot escape perceiv- 
ing that there is something singularly lofty in the New Testament 
teaching, something, to say the least, unusual in the life and actions 
of Jesus, and the idea on which His life was grounded, something 
unsurpassed in the previous history of man, something only to be 
approximately reached by mankind in the future. And while Beeing 
all this, and being the men they are, they conclude that there is 
realised in Christ, for once in human history, the highest excellence 
of which the highest minds have dreamed in the purest moments of 
their inspiration. The life and teaching of Jesus has produced, and 
is fast producing, especially in thoughtful religious minds, some 
such convictions as I have now mentioned. The men who have 
adopted these opinions with regard to Christianity and its founder, 
think in this way to explain the position of Christ in history. As 
Christ would put it, they expect in this way to see His kingdom 
and to enter it. It is with reference to such an attitude of mind 
that Christ said, " Ye must be born again." I believe that it is on 
this statement that we must take our stand, if our view of the new 
kingdom, as given in the contents of Scripture, is to be a correct one. 

The truths and principles of the new kingdom are not strictly the 
outcome of the natural course of the onward march of thought and 
experience on moral subjects. Christianity is not merely a great 
reformation of the moral life of man, any more than it is a new era 
in the philosophy of religion. In looking at it in these latter as- 
pects we lose sight of the peculiar feature of Christianity, whether 
we call this with Fichte " Weltverfassung," or something else. 
There is a great deal said in this connection, as I incidentally no- 
ticed before, about the similarity between pagan moral thought and 


the moral contents of the Bible. In particular, the great Personality 
of the New Testament is considered by some to have merely enun- 
ciated moral truths which were more or less widely known before 
His advent. The love of onr neighbour, we are told, was an injunc- 
tion of the Jewish law, and had been taught by Rabbi Hillel some 
time before Christ came. Love to onr enemies was in the time of 
Christ a fundamental principle of the Stoics ; and after His time, but 
still independent of Him, Epictetus had called all men his brothers. 
That, in fact, as it was the special circumstances, political and social, 
in Judaea, which gave birth to these and other virtues, so the like 
circumstances occurring elsewhere produced similar results. I 
make little of the reply that has been again and again made to 
representations like this, viz., that the moral truths mentioned above, 
and others besides, were by Christ combined, whereas in pagan 
thought they appear as coruscations merely and happy guesses. 
That may be partly true, although the very people who urge this 
would be the first to declare that there is an entire absence of 
system and combination in the New Testament teaching. But, even 
supposing that there was less coherence in pagan moral thought than 
in the Christian teaching, the true distinction between Christianity 
and it does not lie in this direction. A better expression of the pecu- 
liarity of Christ's appearance is to be found in the words of Simeon : 
"He is set . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be 
revealed." Their thoughts, not of the external world but of the 

The appearance of Jesus was equivalent to a new element intro- 
duced into life, a new element as compared with the moral ; for 
spiritual truths and ideas had, as we have already seen, been opera- 
tive among His countrymen long before His appearance. A com- 
parison, therefore, of what may be called Christian sentiments with 
pagan sentiments does not bring us to the heart of the subject. If 
the nobler sentiments were here and there expressed, the met of 
their being so does not tell against Christianity, looked at on its 
moral side, it adds to its naturalness rather, and confirms, what the 
objectors to whom I refer are anxious to deny, its suitability to 
man as a social being. The comparison, however, shows that some- 
thing more than good sentiments is needed for humanity. The 
best sentiments in the world can do very little for the world. It is 
quite possible for bad men and bad times to have in their possession 
most unexceptionable sentiments. It was not so much what Christ 
said about man as what He did for him that constitutes the great 



distinction between Him and others. His standpoint was an alto- 
gether new one ; and it was because He was the Son of man, the 
typical man, as the New Testament has it, the firstborn of the 
coming time, exhibiting the true manhood of our race in life and 
action, and in death and suffering, that He became not the teacher 
simply of religious or moral philosophy, but the source of a new 
life and power to mankind. He was the founder of a new kingdom. 
His words here and there may die away and be forgotten. It 
is quite certain that we have merely the barest record of these words : 
but that is a matter of secondary moment. The personality of the 
man can never be a thing of the past. His spirit has entered into 
history and become one of the forces of society. The principles of 
His kingdom have worked their way effectually into the life of man- 
kind, and are at this moment operative in many directions. In the 
words of Paul, " Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, 
yet now henceforth know we Him no more." His life in the flesh 
has been transmuted into spiritual energy for man. What He lived 
for, and how He lived, are the main things for us. Not to admire 
His sentiments, but to have Him in us. As He Himself strongly puts 
it, to be filled with His life and spirit and idea, and thus through the 
living Christ spiritually to be made alive, is what Christ aims at. 

It has been said that Epictetus recognised the fatherhood of God 
and consequently the brotherhood of man ; but was it in any vital 
sense, like the sonship of Christ making us also sons of God ? I 
have said the simple teaching of morality would not make men 
better, — moral teaching, as a rule, being misapprehended as to its 
effects. It is largely scientific in its nature, and only partially prac- 
tical. But even were the New Testament teaching to be regarded 
as a practical inculcation of moral truths, consider what position 
Christ would have occupied to-day had He been a master in the ex- 
position and enforcement of ethical thought. The number of men 
who read the old masters, Socratic and others, is small ; nor can 
any one reasonably imagine that the number which would have read 
the Jewish teacher, had Christ been simply such, would have been 
larger. I do not know, that, as it is, He is read with the thorough- 
ness that many seem to take for granted. But, above all reading of 
fine thoughts has been the new life and purpose brought by Him to 
man, His vivifying spiritual power. In attempting to describe this 
speciality of Christ and Christianity, I shall not be able to keep clear 
of the second division of the question of the divergence of Christ 
and His new kingdom from moral teachers and systems, viz., in the 


fundamental principle or idea of that kingdom. Bat I shall only 
make rise of this in so far as it helps to a clear delineation of the 
subject now under discussion. 

Theodore Parker says, in contrasting the moral man with the 
religions man, that the former obeys from love of duty, the latter 
because any certain law is the will of God. It is the religious many 
at least the ideal religious man, that obeys from love, and the moral 
man because he must, being under law. The religious man gains 
this motive through the power of Christ's spirit, called in the New 
Testament the might of Him that loved us ; or through the new 
birth, as this transforming power of Christ on a man is sometimes 
called. When this new power enters a man's spirit, it is a simple 
matter of necessity that a new spiritual creation within comes with 
it, or a new creature, as Paul terms it. It is, if we believe the ex- 
periences of spiritual men, as much, a matter of certainty as that 
2 + 2 = 4. Paul had no doubt about it when speaking on this sub- 
ject from his own experience. We know from the history of the man 
and his after labours that he was giving expression to the soberest 
truth of his religious life, when he thus described the effect of Christ's 
spirit upon himself. The alteration is not one here and there in his 
thoughts and feelings on given matters ; it is a complete new way 
of looking at things. The result of this transformation goes to show 
the truth of what I have already said, that Christ was not the pro- 
pounder merely of one, or two, or more admirable moral principles. 
He came to substitute one form of living for another ; to supersede 
and supplant, not to prune and trim ; to make men look out on the 
world and God and their fellow-men with different eyes to what 
they had hitherto done ; to give them eyes, in fact, for the light of 
heaven ; to give them ears for the voice of God. It is, thus, a new 
beginning of life that men receive through Jesus. The past must 
be cut away, as it were, from under our feet. Christ's spirit has 
no footing there, and if we are in Him we can find no ground there 
either. His purpose was to upset the past, to overturn what we call 
our plan of life, to begin a new future for us, to start us on a new 
road. Christianity, regarded on the moral side, is revolutionary and 
at the same time constructive. The process in forming men anew 
is a double one, there is an undoing and building up, — old things, 
in Bible language, are passed away ; here clear space is made for 
the future, when all things become new. It is a veritable transla- 
tion for a man morally when he comes under the influence of the 
spirit of Jesus. He thereby enters into a new order of facts and 

u 2 


truths. All this is very different from listening to Christ the teacher 
of moral maxims which were before current in the world, or even 
which He brought for the first time into the world. It is a complete 
new reading of the world that He brings ; and any one who takes 
Him as a teacher of ethics from whose lessons one can pick and choose, 
at whose Divine flame one can warm one's own love a little, from 
whose light one can borrow some rays, is overlooking the fact that 
Jesus is a spiritual Creator, as we say, the Saviour, the renovator, 
and restorer in moral, and spiritual, and social life. He is not como 
to make better men and women of us, morally, but to make us, to 
all intents and purposes, new men and women. He did not come 
to say the best and newest things about God, to frame definitions 
on that matter, however accurate and satisfactory to contemporary 
thought, or to answer vague questions about God. No more did He 
occupy a like position in morals. He came that He might revolu- 
tionise our idea of life, that from the root of our moral and spiritual 
being we might be new-made, that we might be completely swung 
round, as it were, from former views, and plans of ordering our life. 
It is matter of experience that morality is a somewhat different 
thing from all this. In moral life and development, there is nothing 
like an uprooting and supplanting. A moral man in moral improve- 
ment does not lose, what I may call, the consecutiveness of his moral 
nature, and the same thing is true of social life. It requires some 
vivifying spirit to descend upon the individual, or the mass, in order 
to produce anything like what I have described as taking place in 
spiritual and moral life, through spiritual means. Morality when 
left outside Christian influences, while attaining considerable rich- 
ness and beauty, has had its real advancement, I doubt not, very 
much exaggerated. From its root and germinating source it is de- 
prived of the regenerating and healing energies of the spiritual life. 
I know it is proposed to supplement the native weakness of the moral 
power and its limited view of life and duty by an elevation of the 
feelings above the actual, by the creation of a " home of spirits/* 
which shall be instead of the common religious belief, thus obeying 
Schiller's injunction, 

" Fliehet aus dem engen, dumpfen Leben 
In dee Ideales Reich." 

This is specially felt to be needed in the public and social life of 
the present day ; a supplementing of the moral by the aesthetic and 
ideal. It is at least a confession that the moral in itself has not 


spring enough to lift society out of any groove and impart new 
impulses and widened vision to it. Whether it can be done on the 
principle of " Wage du zu irren und zu traumen," remains to be 
proved ; that it has been done on the Christian principle has been 
proved to some extent during the last 1800 years. It is a simple 
matter of experience in the moral life of individuals, that a breaking 
with the past, on moral grounds alone, is as hard a matter as it is to 
do the same in social life. Physiological psychology can give abun- 
dant reasons why organised feelings, thoughts, and acts should 
fetter a man morally, more hopelessly than iron rivets can his body. 
Defeated moral power in the individual fills a larger space in the 
world's history, than, I believe, men are aware of, unless perhaps some 
medical men. The biography of many a man or woman is a record 
of the impotency of morality as a new forming force in turning the 
currents of life. External restraint may prevent indulgence by the 
withdrawal of the objects that lead to it, but the excitations may 
exist although the object does not meet the sensitivity, and morality, as 
we now recognise it, does not lie merely in the overt act, but equally 
in the internal state. This is a question that those who have to 
deal with the masses in our communities are constantly called upon 
to consider. It may be said by some, as Socrates says, that this is 
the result of ignorance choosing the nearer for the more remote, and 
that with the masses a wider knowledge will effect the needed change. 
For a certain position in moral progress it is ignorance, but that is 
not the entire explanation. There are those who know the right 
and do it not. In fact, it may be said that moBt men know, that 
is, intellectually perceive, the right and the wrong, but all have not 
equal power to act on their perceptions. Knowledge is an element 
in morality, but in supplying impulses it is one of many elements, 
and weaker in the majority of men than the combination of other 
forces which go to the determination of an action. These forces 
when well organised, as they most frequently are, may act without 
the sphere of knowledge altogether, by what is known as a reflex 
movement, and even when only partially organised they may, from 
their great stimulative power and superior volume, neutralise the 
opposing force of knowledge or perception. 

There is felt, therefore, to be something needed to lift mankind 
out of what is termed an ethical materialism. The effort to intro- 
duce an ideal element into life is one of many efforts that have been 
made to elevate moral life. The theory of Gomte and others, al- 
though starting from an apparently different principle, is in the same 


direction. Mr. Mill, after Comte, thinks that the desire to be in 
unity with our fellow-creatures may have in morals both the psy- 
chical power and the social efficacy of a religion. The formula of 
Strauss, " Alles sittliche Handeln des Menschen, mochte ich sagen, 
ist ein Sichbestimmen des Einzelnen naoh der Idee der Gattung," 
takes us out of the round of purely moral conceptions, and attempts, 
after the religious form, to impart a* life and spirit to morality. 
The same thing is true when the conception takes the form of an 
sesthetic idea, as, for example, when we are asked to retreat into the 
" Gedankenland der Schonheit." Some of these conceptions, it will 
be observed, appear to be arrived at by supposed generalisation on 
ethical subjects. That this generalisation is not scientific, in the 
strict sense of the term, is evident from the formula of Strauss to 
which I have referred. Strauss pursues the analysis usual with ex- 
perimental moralists, but he suddenly adds thereto, without analysis 
or experimental derivation, the conception of determination accord- 
ing to the idea of the species. How mankind comes to this deter- 
mination is not explained. It is merely seen by the author that 
some vivifying idea, a principle from without, is necessary to change 
the direction of men's lives and thoughts. Lange, in the work from 
which I have already quoted, speaks with regard to this question as 
if there were needed a " world-inflaming ethical idea and a social 
realisation (Leistung)" powerful enough to raise the oppressed 
masses one great step. He feels that this is not to be accomplished 
by the daylight of the understanding. The victory, he thinks, over 
the isolating egoism of our times and the killing coldness of men's 
hearts will only be won by a great ideal, which like a stranger out 
of another world advances among the astonished people, and with 
the demand of the impossible tears the reality out of its sockets. 

That is the problem and these are the means proposed from the 
ideal standpoint ; but it is not difficult to see that this idea of Lange 
is an ideal introduced for the purpose for which the ideas of Comte, 
Mill, Strauss, and others, are introduced, namely, to work along with 
the daylight of the understanding so far, and then on the principle 
of " wage du zu irren und zu traumen," to advance to new moral 
victories. The lesson of all these efforts, and not the mere criti- 
cism of them, is what concerns us here. The lesson, I think, is 
not far to seek. It is the difference between a morality simply as 
such, and a spiritual life such as Christianity offers; the want of a 
regenerating force in the former, and the need there is for some 
such fofce in society and the individual. The objection that tells 


most against the proposals that have been made in this direction is, 
that they look very like galvanising the moral system through some- 
thing introduced from without. But these shocks, so far as the 
masses are concerned, come out very much as they go in. In so far 
as others are concerned, the conceptions sought to be imparted fail 
somehow in vital assimilation with the life, mainly because the ideas 
are subjective, lying in the thought-world of the beautiful. In this 
way a certain standard of culture may be kept circulating in cer- 
tain classes of society and in certain individuals, but it is difficult 
to see how these can become an integral part of a man's existence, 
or act as a transforming power on social life. It was, I believe, 
from some such feeling of difficulty that Socrates troubled himself 
and his interlocutors so much with the question, Can virtue be 
taught ? and the other side of it, Is virtue a knowledge ? The 
defect of what may be called the originating power of our moral 
nature appeared in one shape or another to be very often in his 
thoughts ; and he cuts the knot once at least avowedly, and more 
frequently without avowal, by saying, that virtue is neither natural 
nor acquired, but an instinct given by God to the virtuous ; in proof 
of which he cites a saying, current in his day, that good men are 
called Divine. And spiritual life is just this Divine thing, "the 
inspiration of the Almighty " in the spirit within us. It is, in the 
language of Christendom, the life of Christ transforming our nature, 
not only by presenting new objects for our aims, but also by com- 
municating new impulses, and wholly new tendencies, in relation to 
customary objects. The difference between the spiritual and the 
ideal element is largely the difference between veritable fact and cul- 
tured imagination. I shall not at present enter on a discussion 
regarding the effective influence that the resthetic idea of salvation 
may have upon our moral conceptions. This has been already 
incidentally noticed as one of the forces that enter into the com- 
position of our complex moral ideas. The moral idealist, however, 
leaves the facts of existence and projects a picture of a sphere out- 
side the actual, to which, in weariness and with the sense of limit- 
ation in the actual, he may betake himself for rest and expansion. 
He is away, as one of these idealists himself says, with a spring into 
the universal. The distinctiveness of Christ's kingdom of righteous- 
ness and of His whole conception of life is, that they are based on 
the actual and not on the ideal. I shall have to notice this more 
at length when I come to speak of some of these conceptions more 
in detail. He never leaves the solid facts of the human or the 


Divine life. He does not make any spring into the realms of 
fancy. There is a basis in fact, and a rigorous realism in the idea 
of Christ. ' 

Bishop Hampden, who was both a philosopher and a divine, holds 
an opinion on the relation of Christian truths to moral principles which 
is very nearly the opposite to that now stated. He maintains that 
" the truths of Christianity are presented to these" (the moral prin- 
ciples of our conduct) " as objects towards which they should tend." 
And again, " It is only results of which revelation informs us — the 
ultimate relations and effects of what we have already by inquiry 
ascertained." 41 Dr. Hampden here means by results the ultimate 
reference of the principles of conduct to an invisible eternal world, 
and the ultimate effect in a future life of their present observed 
tendencies. And expanding this, he says, " there is no addition of 
any new moral fact to the history of our internal nature," but only 
a " presentation of new and more glorious objects to our moral prin- 
ciple, giving infinite room for addition to our actual moral improve- 
ment." The position is that of a widening of human relations 
on a scale exceeding in magnitude that which has been accomplished 
by industrial pursuits, extended observations of mankind, as well as 
by imaginative conception of the ideal; and no one can estimate the 
exact effect produced upon moral thought and feeling by such a 
consciousness of widened relationship as that referred to by Dr. 
Hampden. Working along with other influences, we have already 
seen that this consciousness has been able to transmute, to some 
extent, egoism into altruism, helping to destroy savagery, and to rear 
what we call modern civilisation. Although it is the opinion of 
some, whose opinion is worth regarding, that at the heart of modern 
civilisation the veriest savagery may and does exist, that " Faust- 
recht," for example, may be practised without actually beating a 
man weaker than oneself, that " the abuse of the mere power of 
capital on the one side against hunger on the other " is the new 
"Faustrecht" of modern civilisation. This would seem to show 
that the transmutation spoken of may not be so complete as moral 
thinkers are apt to suppose. Christianity has not, however, the object 
which Dr. Hampden imagines it to have, either wholly or chiefly. 
" These ultimate effects in a future life," which are virtually a re- 
fined form of Paley's religious sanction conveyed in his definition of 
virtue, as the doing good to mankind in obedience to the will of 

Hampden : Bampton Lectures, p. 299. 


God, and for the sake of everlasting happiness, are not, in the con- 
sideration of the highest Christian spirituality, of any moment in 
comparison with the new life-principle received into the human 
spirit through conscious union with the spirit of Jesus. The feeling 
of the Hebrew psalmist, who said, " I delight to do Thy will," had 
no reference to such ultimate effects. It was referable to a life Divine 
in the man's soul, similar to that in Christ, whose constant attitude 
was " not My will but Thine be done," — whose meat and drink, the 
nourishment, that is, as well as energy of His spiritual nature, it was 
to do His Father's will. That is the spiritual life, the realisation 
in the individual of God's will, the endeavour to bring about its un- 
impeded activity in mankind at large. The life of the spiritual man 
is a perpetual longing : " Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ; " 
that is, done here as it is an ideal state of perfection. There is an 
element of idealism in Christianity to this extent, but the idealism 
is only with reference to our present condition, and not in Christi- 
anity itself as a system existing merely in a cultured imagination. 
This is the life brought by Christ and made through Him possible 
for mankind. Being in Him we become one with God, whose will 
is thus realised in us : " I in them and Thou in Me, that they may 
be made perfect in one." This is the root of the Christian law of 
living for others, which in practical expression becomes self-sacrifice, 
and which in its modern extent and with its derivative virtues will 
be seen to be distinctively Christian. 

The spiritual life is a life engrafted on a new stock, nourished by- 
new juices, bearing altogether new fruit. There is nothing in it 
resembling a calculation of consequences; it does not admit of a 
balancing of lesser pleasures and pains against greater. On the 
contrary, it becomes action, in the face of visible consequences, made 
necessary by the new impulses and felt sympathy with Christ. 
The subversion of former ideas of life produced, and to the know- 
ledge of many so produced, quite apart from theory, is not to be 
described but by regeneration. A new birth is necessary, not of 
the will of man, but of the will of God ; and death to the former 
life is also indispensable. The growth of the new and the death of 
the old must proceed together. If we are to put on Christ, to use the 
language of Paul, and grow up into Him, we must put off a great 
deal that is not Christ. The old man, in the express image of the 
same apostle, must die out, if the new man created after Christ is 
to grow stronger within us. It is what in ordinary life is called a 
new start. Only as our poor weak selves fall off is Christ formed * 


within us. There is unquestionably much difficulty attending an 
adequate account of the living growth into Christ's likeness. There 
is one thing which may give a faint illustration of this, although 
many degrees behind the reality. We all know what is meant by 
a fossil, and how it is formed by secretions from some more or 
less enduring substance decomposing vegetable or other decaying 
matter bit by bit, until not a particle of the original substance 
remains, but only the original form, lines of leaves, it may be — 
irregularities of surface. In this way the individuality of the 
perishable plant or animal is preserved for ages by the infusion of 
the lasting material. In some such manner, only in a consciously 
assimilating way, is it with the spiritual life of a man in Christ. It 
is, as the New Testament phraseology has it, a daily dying unto 
sin and living unto righteousness — a dying that we may so live. 
We empty ourselves in fact, that we may be filled, and up to the 
measure that we have so emptied ourselves are we filled with 
Christ's spirit. We exhaust our own spirit to prepare for the new 
spirit. This new spirit was given without measure to Christ. 
Mankind may some day have the same spirit also without measure. 
This new spirit is the reception of a new power in the soul, which 
forms us after Christ until all those characteristics and dispositions 
that are Christ's, are unfolded in us. This is not, as Dr. Hampden 
puts it, a presentation of new objects, nor does it resemble the 
addition of new sanctions. There are new objects, it is true, but 
the principal thing is an entirely new point of departure for life 
and conduct. There is in it also some " ultimate reference," else 
how hopeless were the expectation of growing into Christ P What 
a growth is necessary before any man can reach the spiritual 
* nature of Him who is the firstborn of every creature, the type, 
the ideal realised of our race, and into which the race will yet 
bloom ! That is where there is the need for an ultimate reference 
to the beyond. The future is a necessary projection for a forward 
development, into whose distance we can no more gaze than we 
can look into the retreating stages from which all things came, as 
we are told. Nothing, however apparently extraordinary in nature, 
approaches this sober truth of the Christian religion, that a crea- 
ture, spiritually speaking, dug, as our physical ancestors were 
according to the supposition of some, from the miry clay, should be 
able to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God. 
We make much of the modern conception of physical development 
from low, and what many consider degrading, forms of life ; but 


this moral and spiritual . development through Christ leaves the 
wildest theory of physical development far behind. It is an idea 
purely Christian, and the principle of its working is as distinctively 
Christian. Even those who, as Christians, may be supposed to 
hold this idea, do not half comprehend the revelation of human 
capacity in moral life that it carries with it. If they did, it 
would stagger them by the vastness of the conception. In view of 
the present state of society it would often appear to them wholly 
incredible. A world of Chris ts ! for that, I suppose, is what this 
new life-principle is working towards ; that is really the meaning 
of the new kingdom. We speak the words, but the thought that 
lies beneath the words is much too large for any utterance ; and yet 
in words whose simplicity is the inspiration of confidence and firm 
assurance, we are told by one who drank deeply of this new spirit 
and life, that it doth not yet appear what we shall be — most truly 
not ! but when it doth appear we shall be like Him. No idealist in 
morals has dared, even in " irren und traumen," to imagine this. 
It is, for a moralist, a leap, but a leap into a veritable spiritual 
order of truths. The idealist should at least welcome such a con- 
ception, although he is perhaps more likely to take objection to 
the form of it, just as the scientific moralist will object to the 
idea of the creation of spirit-life — the formation of a new type 
of character. I do not know that, in view of variations in types 
in nature, we need be astonished at this new spiritual formation, 
the founder and progenitor of which, as giving it its tendency and 
character, is Christ. 

The New Testament writers have the fullest right to call those 
who receive the principles of the new kingdom — perhaps we may 
see that very few have received them in their entirety — new crea- 
tures. We muBt, however, in order to pronounce an opinion on 
this, take the best type of this new creature ; and I ask, Are there 
in the moral world creatures like it anywhere on earth ? Do we 
honestly expect the world in its course of moral development, with 
the ripening of the spirit of the time, to make anything in the 
shape of a new man, or to remake society P Has any one ever 
seen a man new-made on the purely moral method P Morally, as 
well as otherwise, like begets like, and, in Bible language, a world- 
ling can only have a progeny that are of the same spirit. This 
kind of exposition will be called mystical by some, although, if it 
were translated into the language of idealism, it might be found by 
the same people to have a basis of intelligibility. The succession 


of types is a mystery altogether, and the introduction of variations, 
whether they be moral or physical, does not certainly lighten the 
mystery. Bat, I am confident that it would materially increase 
the mystery for us were the spirit of Christ only to produce a 
higher and better sort of worldling: continuing the old type 
morally, with a slight variation as we say. Christians and moralists 
have been looking for this and working for it. It has been the 
ambition of the majority of Christians to rear a better moral life 
merely. The motives to this procedure have been numerous ; but 
fear of being thought extreme in following out the Christian ideal 
is not the weakest of them. This is not what Christ looked 
forward to, nor is it what Paul expected to see spring out of the 
death of Christ. The typical Christian, in reality, is morally and 
spiritually, like a man of another race. He is of another race ; he is 
a son of God, the son of man that is to be. The principle of 
his inner life is different from a merely moral principle. He starts 
from a life in God — a life that roots itself in God, and that goes 
out to Him. It is not difficult to see what new formative forces 
lie in such a soil, when the spirit of man grounds itself in it, as 
Christ did. And as in Christ no one can detect any remnant of 
the old type, any evidence of His having grown morally out of the 
wisdom of expediency and worldliness and selfishness, any moral 
marks of kinship with the herd of men, of kinship even with many 
that call themselves His followers ; so neither should such marks 
be seen in those who are really in a measure Christlike. It was 
thus to new-create men spiritually and morally that Christ came. 
The meaning of His work is missed until we recognise this ; nor will 
His mission be fulfilled until this is accomplished. 

In order to see how far we are from this ideal of the kingdom of 
Christ, we have only to look at Christ Himself and His idea of the 
new kingdom, and then turn to ourselves and the general con- 
dition of society. But the forming spirit is not defeated in its 
plastic power. Forces may be in abeyance for awhile, or rather 
they may require time, as we know from physical science they 
sometimes do, in order to effect any material change in what they 
act on. The " powers of the world to come " are spoken of in the 
New Testament, and whatever interpretation be given to the parti- 
cular passage where this expression occurs, I believe, that among 
the powers of the coming time will be the forces partially locked 
up at present in the spirit of Jesus. Morality on its practical side, 
so far as we can yet see, has no such store of native force wherewith 




to act upon humanity ; and on its scientific side it is like other 
sciences, in being the rationalised knowledge of what is. Christi- 
anity is not a science. It is, as contrasted with this side of ethics, 
the unfolding of what onght to be. And not only so, but we have 
the practical manifestation of this imperative, to borrow a phrase 
from moral philosophy, reaching, both for the individual and hu- 
manity, far above all mere moral conceptions, or even rasthetic 
and other ideals. We have, too, what ethical experience has not 
given us, a starting point from which it is possible for men to 
attain the goal of Christian effort, and reap the harvest of Christ's 
life and death. There is both the " world-inflaming idea and the 
social Leistung " in Jesus. In Christianity rightly understood lies, 
through its idea and realisation, the hope of the world, the reno- 
vation of society, the gradual elevation of the masses of humanity, 
and the ultimate moral and spiritual perfection of our race. 

The keynote of Christianity and the Bible teaching generally is 
the relation of man's life to God in every act and thought and 
feeling. It is this that gives it what is called its spirituality. 
Morality has, as I have explained more fully in a previous chapter, 
its root in sensible experience, and plainly bears evidence of its 
origin in its flower and fruit ; spirituality has its root and source 
in the Divine. The point in which they meet is in man's relations 
to his fellow-men and to himself, if I may so represent a certain 
class of duties. It is in their points of departure, no less than in 
their principles of operation, to which I have already referred, that 
morality and Christianity differ. That is what some would call a 
difference in the form of the moral doctrine, and it is held that the 
peculiarity of a religion in a moral aspect consists in its form, and 
not so much in its material teaching. That is, however, only 
one of the distinctions of the Christian religion compared with 
morality. While, therefore, meeting in the relations above referred 
to, ethics and religion have a resultant at the point of junction very 
widely different, although we are accustomed to class both effects as 

This confusion of thought has been due to some extent to the theory 
of morals known as the a priori theory, which, being based, as we saw, 
partly upon elements unconsciously borrowed from spiritual truth 
and the religious side of our nature, has led necessarily to the result 
just pointed out. In speaking of morality, therefore, as a body of 
Scripture truth, I feel compelled to limit myself for the most part 
to the theory of morals based upon consequences, which gives what 


is usually known as the utilitarian law of happiness.* This latter 
theory, as being the experiential one, is alone thoroughly and rigidly 
scientific. Morality, according to this theory, brings our actions 
under the law of consequences. The a priori theory, on the other 
hand, introduces into the experiences of moral relations an ideal 
element, whose deduction, in the opinion of an idealist himself t 
is imperfect, whose principle is susceptible of improvement, and 
whose truth must stand or fall with the general doctrine of the 
categories. A discussion in full of such a question would clearly be 
out of place here. We have already seen that this method is not 
necessary for the explanation of strictly moral ideas — that the child- 
hood of the world with its human intelligences corresponds in some 
degree to the same period in the individual man ; that the young 
world intellect, rude and untutored, rose from the observation and 
chronicling of simple, isolated, and sensible facts to narrow con- 
clusions from these, forced upon it by the ordinary necessities of 
life, even as a child learns its hard lessons in the nature and effects 
of the several objects, which, in its daily experience, it has to do with 
— storing up slowly perceptions of what is hot and cold, soft and 
hard, near and distant — through a fall learning that air will not 
sustain it like the ground it creeps on, that walls will not permit it 
the same easy transit as the open room, that fire will burn and that 
other things, although not exactly resembling fire, will also scorch. 
In a similar way, but at a much later period both in the age of the 
individual and the race, can we explain the growth of a primitive 
moral experience. An experience which we have seen was perhaps 
at first scarcely what men now call moral, but rather a kind of at- 
traction and repulsion in the sphere of action and personal relation. 
Just as the gods have their root in nature and sensible experience, 
so has morality, although both afterwards shot through the soil in 
which they grew, and have manifested great beauty and strength in 
their later growth ; but not so great, perhaps, as we, standing at the 
distance we do from these times, sometimes imagine. 

This method, or something like this, although carried on in a 

• I accept the formula of the theory, but must at the same time enter a pro- 
test against its extreme inadequacy as an expression of the last generalisation in 
abstract morals. It is a convenient counter in thought, but it must have an 
interpretation put upon it wider than the opposing school is inclined to grant, 
and more nearly approaching, and transcending even, what Austin, and after him 
Mill, have assigned to it, 

f Lange. 


much faller and broader manner as life and the colouring of life 
become more varied, must be pursued in the investigation of morals. 
If we take the ancient thinkers on morals, we shall see, underneath 
different lines of thought springing out of different phases of culture, 
the scientific method in outline. The process of mensuration in 
the Protagoras, and the mean of Aristotle, are characteristic notes 
in earlier thinkers ; and such ideas unite Plato and Aristotle, for 
example, to each other, notwithstanding divergences that have been 
thought radical, but which are essentially only superficial. And 
these conceptions, with the kindred one of moderation, and the occa- 
sional reference of virtue to knowledge by Plato, and the appeal 
to the wise man by Aristotle to decide the mean, lead us back to 
the idea of a growth similar to what I have described. Kant's two 
forms of the categorical imperative, on the other hand, may be taken 
as the purest form of d> priori or ideal, or what I have called the 
quasi-revelation method. It is, in fact, an offshoot of Christianity, 
only more complex than Christianity, and is, accordingly, unsatisfac- 
tory and ineffective. " Act according to that maxim only which you 
can wish at the same time to become a universal law," Kant says ; 
but there is nothing said about the man who is to formulate the 
maxim according to his wish. In Christ we have the noblest wish, 
the highest idea consequently, and this not only maximised but real- 
ised. That is not leaving the rule in the condition of a maxim 
desired by " you " to become a universal law, whoever may be ad- 
dressed as " you ;" for it is clear that different men would desire 
different laws to be universal. Kant says again, " Act so as to use 
humanity, as well in your own person, as in the person of another, 
ever as an end and never merely as a means." This is, again, not a 
maxim of experience, but an adumbration of spiritual truth. In Christ 
we have the idea and the act : " My meat is to do the will of Him 
that sent Me ;" " He saved others ; Himself He cannot save." 

Kant and the a priorists do not profess to base their system on 
induction. In reality, their position is, that there is an element not 
given in experience, an ideal or formal principle. But until we have 
an analysis of the formal principle or categorical imperative more 
in accordance with science, and an explanation of its origin, we may 
dismiss it as unscientifically introduced. I have no doubt myself 
that it is obtained from what some call the kernel of the religious 
idea, that is, its distinctive and separate peculiarity stripped of all 
that is temporal and locaL It is the universal in the religious con- 
ception, which, in the opinion of those I speak of, is simply the notion 


of an ideal in life towards which men should direct their efforts. In 
comparing Christianity with morality, however, we must keep strictly 
to what morality really is. The principles of the deductive method are, 
therefore, properly outside our present consideration, although it 
might be shown that on the point of vitality and social influence they 
are a long way behind spiritual truth, and, in fact, radically different 
from the spiritual idea as seen in Christ. We shall accordingly in 
this connection consider rather the inductive method in morals. 

Ethical philosophy in propounding the question, What is the end 
of life ? has attempted the solution of a problem insoluble on a 
more inductive method through sensible experience. This is no more 
proper an inquiry in moral science, than it is in physical science. It 
is quite possible, that the strenuousness with which moralists have 
pursued this inquiry, has been one reason at least for the slight ad- 
vancement that moral science has made relative to other sciences.* 
They have mistaken a metaphysical question, natural to man, for 
the question of a particular science. Mr. Mill, in the remarks 
quoted in the note below, goes the length of identifying the summum 
bonum with the foundation of morality. This might, perhaps, be 
possible, were morality the science of what ought to be ; but the 
same philosopher would have objected to such a definition of the 
science. It is and must remain as a science, like other sciences, the 
rationalised knowledge of what has been and is. In imaginative and 
noble minds there will rise out of the investigation of what is and 
has been hoped and expectations of something higher and purer that 
is to be. But, what is distinctively scientific and not hortatory and 
imaginative will be found to be a branch of historical and sociological 
inquiry. This forward look in moral science very much resembles 
the exercise of imagination in physical science to which I have 
already referred. The attempted solutions, therefore, of the chief 
good in relation to moral and social life have been only, and neces- 
sarily, partially true. On consideration, it will be manifest to all 
that there can be little likelihood of reaching what may be called 
perfection in moral theory by simple induction, from the very fact 

* Mr. Mill dwells with regret on this fact. " From the dawn of philosophy the 
question concerning the summum bonum, or what is the same thing, concerning 
the foundation of morality, has been accounted the main problem in speculative 
thought ; . . . and after more than two thousand years the same discus- 
sions continue, . . . and neither thinkers nor mankind at large seem 
nearer to being unanimous on the subject, than when the youth Socrates 
listened to the old Protagoras." 


that such a method, based as it is on observations and human ex- 
periences, and generalisations from these, cannot necessarily rise 
above the phenomena generalised. Facts in moral science are in rela- 
tion to a condition of things, ethically considered, notoriously im- 
perfect. Then it may be asked, Why begin moral inquiries with such 
a question at all ? We do not now start in natural science with 
teleological inquiries. Whether the scheme in nature be perfect or 
imperfect is a matter of dispute with some thinkers, but not a matter 
of inquiry to a physicist. He observes, and compares, and draws 
his conclusions, and leaves to others the questions of final causes — of 
pessimism or the reverse. There is no dispute regarding the cha- 
racter of humanity on its moral side — that it is, ethically considered, 
imperfect, that our observations give us laws of this condition of 
things and not the laws of a state altogether out of conditions. The 
data being, therefore, in relation to the summum bonum, of an imper- 
fect character, the conclusion drawn therefrom cannot be taken as 
absolutely correct ; in fact, we are not in a position from such data 
to formulate any conclusion on the question of the mmmum bonum. 
With regard to the solution of this question in relation to spiritual 
life we can speak more confidently. No solution of it here was even 
approximately true on a bare scientific method. I hope to be able 
to show that the exact answer in relation to social life, and indi- 
vidual life as well, depends on the answer we receive to this question 
as regards our spiritual nature. It is not to be wondered at, how- 
ever, that the question has sought and found a place in philosophy. 
Men have asked, again and again, for more than the two thousand 
years of which Mr. Mill speaks, with something like vehemence, and 
occasionally with weariness, What is the end of life P What is the 
meaning of all the toil and labour in the world, the living and striv- 
ing, the restless expenditure of energy and power, the waste of body 
and mind, the ceaseless change, the reiterated events among nations, 
polities, and individuals, which, in some of our moments, appear not 
different from, and hardly less monotonous than the iteration of the 
seasons or the sequence of nights and days P To what good P men 
cry. What profit hath a man in all his labour P Is it not vexation 
and vanity ? Does it not seem as if there were no end served by it, 
no law governing the untiring activity of mankind, unless the law of 
blind expenditure of superfluous force, or the transmission of such 
force P If, in any throng in the centres of modern industry, a 
thinker were to propound to the various workers, as they labour and 
sweat, the question regarding the ultimate result or object of their 



work and aims, and their spiring of action, they would probably look 
at him in Bimple astonishment. They do it, possibly as they feel, 
because they must. And is there really a common end to this mul- 
tiplicity of pursuit and the intricate relations that grow out of these 
pursuits — to that poor workman, for example, sorrily clad and fed, 
and as sorrily furnished within, bending over his load of excavated 
rubbish ; to that skilled artisan fashioning curious forms from rude 
incurious blocks of matter ; to that designer whose sasthetic taste 
conceived the image for the workman's help ; to that idle and luxu- 
rious man who is able, through stored up labour, to purchase the 
labour, in muscle, nerve, and brain of others P Is there one end for 
work apparently so much unlike, as the soldier's work of war, the 
poet's peace song, the painter's canvassed colouring of life P Do all 
these seek, consciously or unconsciously, and more or less dumbly, 
but with much struggling, the same thing P It is to this question, 
not perhaps put in this way, but rather in the form of a moral 
sanction, that philosophy has tried to give the answer ; and to all 
this and much more it has answered, Happiness, — meaning by that 
term very different things at different times, and according to the 
individual men who said happiness, and also according to the dif- 
ferent moods of the same men's minds. It is one form of many 
shapes, and answering well to the actual multiplicity of ends con- 
ceived by the many eager crowds who have set up their goals in life. 
It has, however, in its very concreteness, been nearer the truth than 
has sometimes been imagined by those who spake the words with 
merely an abstract meaning and a philosophical intention. It has come 
still nearer the truth, although the legitimacy of this later step may 
be scientifically questioned, since the end was widened to the greatest 
happiness of the greatest number, and not confined merely to the in- 
dividual's happiness.* The principle of philosophical utilitarianism 
is the highest criterion of action that scientific investigation has 
reached, possibly the highest that it can reach. But to the question so 
often asked, Why is happiness postulated as the standard of action ? it 
has supplied no answer, and never can, since it takes its stand on this, 
as confessedly the ultimate ground and final test that scientific obser- 
vation can gather from experience. Not until the principle of the 
spiritual life becomes, through the life and spirit of Christ, recog- 

* The weak point, speaking scientifically, of utilitarianism is just here. It 
is possible that it leaves simple experience and induction, and introduces, some- 
times in a very subtle manner, an ideal and partly religious element. 


nised among men, and the source of social activity, will tbe answer 
to this question be forthcoming,* and the true position of philo- 
sophical utilitarianism be determined, in its proper subordination 
in the order of truths. I do not say that happiness will then be the 
postulate of ethics ; but the answer, whatever it be, will come from 
the related sphere of spiritual truth. 

There need be nothing in this to astonish those, who are familiar 
with the light cast upon subjects under discussion in one branch of 
science, by the ascertained principles of a cognate field of inquiry. 
There are points reached, from whose elevation order and light below 
take the place of confusion and darkness ; perplexities are cleared, 
the chaotic takes shape from these summits as suddenly and gloriously 
as when the early sun, turned on the darkened earth, gives definiteness 
to the indefinite blur of night and forms, by illuminating, the cold, 
grey, creeping vapours. We are all acquainted with such illuminat- 
ing principles in thought, and the New Testament is not without such 
lights radiating from Christ, who has been called the Sun of Right- 
eousness. This illuminating power is in the spiritual sphere, as the 
name may show ; for it is no empty designation to call Him the Sun of 
Righteousness, but an expression of the deepest significance. Being 
thus concerned with righteousness, the Bible cannot fail to be with- 
out relation to the moral life of man ; and it is in this sense that one 
characteristic of the Scripture is very markedly the commingling of 
principles that admit of the widest application to human life in 
general, along with that which is distinctively an unfolding of truths 
in religion and in spiritual life. This characteristic is, however, rather 
the result of a descent upon moral truth from the spiritual stancrpoint, 
than a separate moral revelation. But, whether by this descent or 
not, the moral life has been brought into intimate relation with the 
spiritual, and, as we shall see, raised and purified by its contact with 
it. In order that an action may, in the present day, be thought in 
the highest degree estimable, it must be seen to harmonise, not only 
with a moral law discernible by experience, but with a more or less 
clearly perceived spiritual law, or, as it is sometimes considered, an 
ideal or formal law. This will be seen to be the principal explana- 
tion of the prominence of virtues generally thought distinctive of 
modern European civilisation. 

The chief difference between the moral kingdom and the kingdom 

— -_. — l 

* " No reason can be given why the general happiness is desirable," Mr. Mill 
says, " except that each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires 
his own happiness." 

x 2 


of heaven established by Christ is, that in the former we have a 
standard of duty and good which has sprung from our human rela- 
tionships merely, in the way already shown ; and in the latter the 
standard has originated in a Divine revelation, yielding a higher law 
of life. There has been, as yet, no clearly defined connection in thought 
established between the two spheres of moral and spiritual truth. 
Practically they have been acting on each other, to the improvement 
of morals and the detriment of spiritual life, and winning, on the 
whole, a general higher practical moral advancement with a universal 
lower spiritual ideal. If a doctrine, it has been said, of any kind 
does not harmonise with higher related truths, however true it may 
be in itself, it becomes " falsehood when practically carried out." 
And that is most likely the reason why there is in our social and trade 
life so much practical falsehood. The morally correct man of the 
present day does not excite in our minds any excessive emotions of 
admiration ; he is often not an object of any moderate esteem. And 
the reason is plain. He is a man who follows the lower good, which, 
true enough in its sphere, becomes false when opposed to the higher 
in the related sphere. Such an one has only learned the law of moral 
life, but the highest development of this is not possible practically, 
any more than theoretically, considered, without the higher law given 
in spiritual life. The moral law of happiness itself becomes false to 
a spiritual being, and the declaration of St. Theresa is nearer truth 
and nearer Christ, when she wished heaven and hell blotted out 
that she might serve G-od for Himself alone. Few Christians have 
as yet risen much above the happiness principle. The majority of 
them are in what may be called a moral condition merely, — many of 
them in a lower condition, morally, than others, who, rejecting the 
accompaniments of Christian organisation and theological thought, 
have drunk deeply of the spirit of Christ, and do not, like a few 
nominal Christians, lean heavily on those future rewards and 
punishments that pained the sensitive Christian saint. 

The relation of Christianity to the moral elements in social life and 
modern culture will have to be considered, but, in the meantime, I shall 
proceed to give a rapid sketch of the relation of the material contents 
of Christianity, so far as it is moral, with the contents of morality. 
The question at present is not with regard to the distinctive life force 
of each — not with regard to the form of Christianity and morality, but 
with regard to their matter. I have already noticed the position of 
Strauss towards Buckle and industrialism, but it may be as well to 
give his opinions as nearly as possible in his own words. The beg- 


ging monks of the Middle Ages, as truly as the begging system at 
the present day in Borne, he says, are genuine Christian institutions. 
These are limited in Protestant lands only by culture, which has 
quite other sources. There is not anything that may be presented 
to human activity as aim and object, which has a real worth in the 
eye of Christ ; all effort and endeavour affcer that is not merely vain, 
but fox man, in the attainment of his real end, be it nothing (in allu- 
sion to Buddhism) or a heavenly kingdom, is indeed a hindrance. 
In the teaching of Jesus the industrial impulse is not acknowledged, 
its activity in the furtherance of culture and humanity is not under- 
stood. Christianity shows itself in this respect as a principle 
thoroughly at enmity with culture. To attribute the present state 
of society and industry to Christianity, or its influence in any way, 
is reckoned by Strauss either a sign of magnanimity, or weakness, 
or hypocrisy in a thinker.* The illustrations for such a picture of 
Christianity, as is here given, are drawn from the parable of the rich 
man, who is represented by the industrial school as considered by 
Christ fit for hell, merely because he lived splendidly and dressed 
sumptuously ; or from the story of the wealthy young man, whom 
Jesus did not know better to advise than, besides fulfilling the law, 
to sell all and give to the poor. 

But the charge goes further than this. Not only are the opinions 
on morals that Jesus pronounced, condemned by Strauss ; silence on 
certain moral points equally calls forth his censure. There is no 
promise of heaven to the virtues that are shown in war, and no word 
for the peaceful political virtues, — for love of fatherland and burghal 
worth. Nay, even the virtues of home and family life are not to be 
found in the teaching of Jesus. Besides these, there is another class 
of virtues that unquestionably, even in the opinion of Strauss, are 
to be ranked neither as tending to " Armuth cultus " nor " Bettelei," 
and are yet distinctly named and insisted on in the teaching and life 
of Christ. This class, however, is not peculiar to Christianity. It 
includes love to one's neighbour and others, gentleness, and com- 
passion. These virtues are not only found elsewhere, but found in 
a better form than we see them in Christianity ; for this love of 
others, it appears, is, in Christianity, limited to those who believe 
with us in the same means of salvation. The pure form of this love 
is the outcome of the " unbelieving, world-philosophy culture " of 
the 18th century. All this is equivalent to a charge, that what in 

* <t 

Der alte und der neue Glaube," p. 62, ff. 


Christianity is new is not true, and what is true is not new, and what 
is both new and true, in the division of life with which it deals, is 
not to be found in its teaching. That appears a very definite issue 
between Christianity and morality ; bat it is really not so definite as 
the very dear statements of Strauss would lead one to expect. The 
lucidity is gained at the expense of nice shading. From the stand* 
point of Strauss, with regard to religious and spiritual questions gene- 
rally, the first class of virtues, for example, to which he takes objec- 
tion are easily confounded with the wretched outcome of beggary 
and poverty. It is easy to see the extreme arbitrariness with which 
certain conditions of society, when bad, are in some countries traced 
by him wholly to Christianity, as if— an impossible occurrence — no 
other causes had been operative there ; while opposite results are de- 
picted as reached in Protestant lands, because in these districts other 
causes were at work to counteract purely Christian tendencies. That 
may do very well for a vehement polemic, but it is not philosophy. 
Christianity, since it became a power in morals and social life, has, 
at no tune, acted alone, nor has it always operated according to the 
intention of its founder. It is, therefore, an ignoring of the element- 
ary laws of sociology to speak as if such were the case. 

The picture that Strauss draws may be reversed, and some will 
think with more truth. It is possible to say that Christianity is the 
cultus of wealth and industry ; that the most advanced peoples in the 
world, in energy and perseverance and inventiveness, as well as in 
material well-being, are, without exception, Christian peoples ; that 
those peoples who are Protestant, who accept, as some think, the 
most enlightened view of Christianity, are the most distinguished in 
these respects ; that, in the countries where less or different results 
are evident, counteracting agencies have been at work, rendering, to 
some extent, ineffective the normal tendency of Christianity. 

That at least may be set over against the description which Strauss 
has given. We shall see by-and-bye that the working out of such 
problems is not so easy ; that at least these problems are not to be 
decided in an off-hand manner. Strauss, and those who think with 
him, may, however, be taken upon other ground. The principles 
which they despise, and, I think, underestimate, are principles opposed 
to the culture they have espoused. It becomes in that case very 
much a matter of taste with a man what social force he pitches upon, 
as the moving force. Some are all for industry, art, science, com- 
fortable well-being, and intellectual and aesthetic enjoyment; others, 
without altogether despising these, are for what may, by contrast, be 


considered asceticism and despisal of the world. The latter think that 
there is something worth living for besides accumulating wealth and 
the means for luxury ; that men have higher objects in life than the 
cultivation of music, poetry, painting, or even science ; that although 
Jesus may not, by one class of thinkers, be taken as the model suc- 
cessful man, He is, in their view, the one successful man, as. having 
lived the most perfect ideal life. For two such temperaments to 
agree upon fundamental conceptions of life is nearly impossible. 
The only thing rationally to be expected is, that the one will make 
an effort to understand the other. To represent the fundamental 
thought of Christ, as has been done, as pourtrayed in the parable of 
Lazarus and the rich man, and then to read this parable as if it 
meant, God will punish the rich yonder for his comfort here, and 
recompense the beggar hereafter for his misery in time, is something 
not far short of a burlesque on Christianity. If this representation 
of Christianity were true, it might be called, as it has been, an en- 
couraging "of opium-smoking of pictures of blessedness in the world 
to come," and a temptation to listless indifference here. The fact, 
that practically it has not done so, is some reason for suspecting 
this reading of the fundamental thought of Jesus. Such readings 
as those given above show anything but insight into the stories nar- 
rated to illustrate a principle. To take every incident as if it were 
a step in an argument, and to miss the illuminated moral or spiritual 
truth, is to mistake the nature of story-telling in moral or spiritual 
subjects. I will not deny that one fundamental thought of Christ's 
teaching is the despisal of the abundance of things ono possesses 
as compared with, what He calls, life itself. What, in. the introduc- 
tion to the parable of the rich man with the well-stored barns, who 
reversed this plan of life, is called covetousness — irXcoi«£/a, is the evil 
against which Christ contends. It is not the evil of wealth in 
itself, but of undue estimation of it. At no time in the history of 
the world was this an unnecessary line of thought to take ; at pre- 
sent it is still needful. We need not decry industry. I do not know 
any word of Christ's that can bear such an interpretation ; but the 
selfish accumulation of wealth and the selfish enjoyment of it, the. 
greed for gain, and hunger for the " abundance of things," the pas- 
sion for luxury, and tj^e indifference to misery which it brings, are 
real evils now, and were no less so in Christ's time. They are 
evils, moreover, of so momentous a nature as to render some such 
position as that which Christ took up imperative, if they are to be , 
eradicated from society. 


The protest of Jesus is not against the mere evil of mammon in 
itself considered ; nor is it, as is supposed, the result of a blind in- 
difference to industry and commercial activity on His part. It is a 
protest against an ethical view of life that enters into every social 
relation, and more or less affects the moral well-being of society. 
Christianity is, therefore, in social questions the supplanting of a per- 
sonal regard by a universal interest. In individual morality it is the 
introduction of what, from one side, would be called an ideal ele- 
ment into morals ; from the other, it is a religious as against a simple 
materialistic view of life. The illustrations, as I have said, have 
been taken for the things themselves. The illustrations must be 
viewed in the light of the general teaching of Jesus, and we must 
try to get behind the imagery to the formal teaching that is conveyed 
through it. It is not true, for example, that the rich man, simply 
for being rich, was thought, in the language of the time, deserving 
of hell. His relation to the class that Lazarus represents is the vital 
element in the story, because it is the ethical element, and shows the 
absence of the religious feeling. The meaning of Christ's answer to 
the young man who had the large possessions, must be seen through 
the young man's own question. That bore upon what is called 
entering into life, or obtaining eternal life, or in whatever way we 
may put it : and there are many ways of expressing a question, 
which each of us must ask or answer in a way. There are in the 
main two ways in which this question may be answered. There 
is the answer of the young man — an answer which based itself, in 
the last resort, on selfishness — on what Christ calls pleonexia, 
meaning by that what I have described as the theory of life con- 
sisting in abundance of good things and good pleasures ; the theory 
of gain, of luxury, of self-seeking in a more or less refined form. 
As opposed to this is Christ's own plan. Expressed in relation to 
the young man, it is, " sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, 
. . . and come, follow Me." We must, however, remember the 
distinctive feature of Christ's method of teaching. That, I think, 
may be described as teaching through principles embodied in parti- 
cular cases. The principle must be drawn from the case, and the 
principle behind the case of the rich young man will be found to be 
the real ground-thought of Christ and Christianity, as opposed to the 
imagined one given by Strauss and others, viz., a life to others and 
not to ourselves, a rejection of everything that hinders the growth 
of the principle of Christ's own life in us. If this hindrance be 
wealth, then give up the wealth ; if it be Mends, then, as against the 



idea of the new kingdom, let them go. Whithersoever Christ goes, 
we mnst go, even to the length of having nowhere to lay onr head. 

Looked at from the standpoint of culture and industrialism, and 
particularly from practical materialism, this appears, undoubtedly, 
extreme and fanatical, and equivalent to a denial of the world. But 
no one who knows social life, and the hold that a course of conduct, 
long pursued, and strengthened, as it often is, by the self interest of 
man and its harmony with the prevailing customs, has upon the 
thoughts and feelings of mankind, will for a moment imagine, that 
anything less extreme can work effectually in leavening society. 
The men who have come nearest to this fundamental thought of 
Christ's teaching are by no means always Christians so-called. 
Comte, for instance, and Mill are in some matters nearer the heart 
of the teaching of Jesus on this subject than any professed theologian 
that I can at present name. It is not less of the advice that Christ 
gave to the young man, but more of it that is needed, and needed 
with what I have called particular application. I believe, that were 
it accepted, the real power of Christianity would be seen to be not 
less favourable to industry than other influences, but more humane 
in the relations of industrial life, and more effective in lifting society 
out of its too often vulgar idea of what its life consists in. 

On another view of this subject of the cultus of poverty, it is 
evident that Christianity has not been so far wrong in its reading 
of social evils. The question of the poor is, in older civilisations, 
a burning one. The relation between the poor and those above them 
is a question that no system of morals has faced. Industrialism is 
supposed by some to have intensified the difficulty and made the 
question hotter. Culture is almost a kind of mockery as applied to 
it. We cannot ask these poor people to retreat with Schiller " in des 
Ideales Reich." It is questionable how many well-to-do people even 
would understand the meaning of such a retreat, in its bearing upon 
such questions as I have mentioned. 

The charge of silence on certain important virtues, which has been 
made against Christianity, is not so important as it looks. I have 
already said that Christ is no philosopher. He gives no system 
and no summary of morals, no category of the virtues. It is fair to 
deduce these, however, from the principles of His life and the 
ground- thought of His teaching ; and if this be, as I have said, " no 
one liveth to himself and no one dieth to himself," I know no surer 
basis whereon one of these virtues concerning which He is said to 
be silent, may be founded, viz., the love of country. Patriotism is 


simply an illustrative example of the best application of such a 
principle. Bnt patriotism is sometimes too narrowly understood. I 
consider Christ, or any one who wonld follow Him in raising the 
ideal standard of life and thought in his country, and in saving it 
from coarse and narrow views of living, and in the end from social 
disorder, to be a patriot in the best sense of the word. The same 
thing may be said with regard to the family life, bnt we do not need 
to make deductions from a principle in order to arrive at a surmise 
of Christ's feelings on this latter subject. There are incidents 
mentioned in His life that testify sufficiently to His appreciative 
admiration of this bond.* The sharp manner in which He set the 
family tie over against the spiritual is only a mode of stating the 
higher claims of the latter, and is very, much like the manner in 
which He set, what is called, the unrighteous mammon against the 

It is said that virtues which were long taken for granted, as 
distinctively Christian, are really independent of Christ and Christi- 
anity. These are generally reckoned as mercy, and compassion, and 
love of others — friends and foes. It has been seen already how diffi- 
cult it is for us to get at the exact meaning of ancient mythology. 
I believe it is not less difficult to get at the moral life of early 
times. For the moral life is really something different from, the 
speculations of philosophers on the chief good. These do not 
always give us what we need, viz., a true picture of individual and 
national morality, although they may help towards giving us this 
picture. In a question like the one now before us, it cannot be the 
desire of any student of history to distort paganism. By darkening 
it, we by no means increase the splendour of Christianity. Some of 
us even now " miss the plain way in the blaze of noon," and al- 
though in earlier times it cannot be said that men descried " sun- 
shine in midnight," there is evident, on a calm survey of pagan 
life, a moral development, which, although perhaps one-sided, makes 
the supposition of the Platonic Socrates not so muoh out of the 
way, that the moral life must spring from some inspiration of the 
gods. It should be borne in mind, however, that it is not sufficient 
to establish a resemblance between paganism and Christianity if 

. * The scene at the cross, in which His mother appears, recorded by one evan- 
gelist, and the touching act of sympathy shown in the story of the young man of 
Nain, are only two of many such. His relation to children is not to be over- 
looked in such a connection. 


the names of the same virtues are found to occur in both cultures. 
It is incumbent on us to know the contents of these names in the 
respective systems, and the relations of such virtues to each other, 
in order to get at the typical character in each of these moral 
developments. It is a different thing, for example, to find that 
compassion was nominally known, and to know what precise mean- 
ing was attached to the name ; and both are far from telling us what 
position was assigned to such a virtue in the family of graces then 
held in esteem by men. With the same virtues in the catalogues 
of moralists, and with even the same contents in each, there may 
have been in later times an entire facing round of the moral ideal. 
These virtues, while retaining their names, may in more recent 
times have somewhat altered in meaning and in relation to each 
other ; and others, even if perceived in early times, may not then have 
come to the front, so that the typical man of the present day may 
be an entirely different man from the earlier ideal. 

It is this moral ideal that is really the point of contrast between 
ancient and modern life, and not the fact that Epictetus, for example, 
mentions love of mankind, or that Buddha knew something of 
mercy and compassion and the peaceful virtues. Buddha may have 
known these in some sense, but his moral ideal cannot be compared 
with that of .Christ. I shall mention one fact to show what I 
mean. In a sermon, that is deservedly much admired for its high 
moral tone, Buddha gives expression to a principle, which had it 
turned up in the New Testament would have been immediately 
discerned to be against the genius of Christ's teaching. Buddha is 
enjoining thrift, and says that savings should be divided into four 
portions, — one to live upon, two to trade upon, and one to keep for 
the future. We have only to recall the injunction, " Sell that thou 
hast," or the principle of life not consisting in the abundance of 
what one possesses, in order to see the radically different starting 
point in morals, and the different outlook upon the world, that 
separate the two teachers. There is, in the advice of Buddha, an 
unmistakable note of selfishness and self-interest. It is political 
economy pure and simple, and political economy based upon egoism. 
The natural outcome of this ideal is heedless pursuit of personal in- 
terest and advantage ; and this is not very unlike what an industrial 
ideal would give, when unmodified by other influences. 

The Christian ideal is not " poverty and beggary," but, on the con- 
trary, in spite of poverty and beggary, disgrace and death, steadily 
to seek the advancement of the kingdom of righteousness. It is 


the confusion of the end with the means to represent contempt for 
-wealth as the root of Christ's teaching. It is no more so than it is 
death by crucifixion. But the kernel of that teaching is to follow the 
ideal which Christ followed — obedience to God's will in Divine rela- 
tions ; in human relations not to seek our own bat the things of 
others ; to follow this ideal through hardship, through self-denial 
and self-renunciation of the extremest kind, through weariness, pain, 
and want, if need be to leave behind society, home and its ties, 
honour and applause and even wealth itself,— the end of indust- 
rialism. I think I may safely challenge any writer to produce a 
moral ideal that approaches this. I am perfectly certain that it is 
not the ideal of the present day ; and nothing can be more certain 
than this, that, as a whole, the moral ideal of the 10th century will 
bear favourable comparison with that of any preceding century 
known to us. I shall again quote from Lange, whose chapters on 
materialism and religion are well worthy the attention both of the 
moralist and the political economist. In speaking of the difference 
between ancient and modern conceptions of virtue, he says, " Un- 
recht abwehren, und Unrecht dulden, die Schonheit verehren, und 
die Schonheit verachten, dem Gemeinwesen dienen, und das Gemein- 
wesen fliehen, sind nicht nur zufallige Ziige einer verschiednen Ge- 
muthsrichtung, bei gleichen sittlichen Grundsatzen, sondern Gegen- 
satze, die aus einem bis in den tief sten Grand verschiednen Moral 
Princip hervorgehen." 

There is a fundamental distinction between the present and the 
past in the matter of moral discrimination and ethical obligation. 
Our present morality is a pure and holy religious ideal in some 
of its aspects, when compared with what we can see from analogy, 
or learn from history, to have been worked out by early peoples. The 
moral life of the present day is as far above that of earlier times, as 
the Christian religion is above their fetishism and mythology ; in- 
deed morality and religion appear to stand in an invariable ratio to 
each other. It is not so much, then, in the contrast of the categories 
of the virtues of Christianity and paganism respectively, that we 
shall see the difference between the two systems as moral systems. 
But even here there is something to be observed. Self-sacrifice 
for others' good we have seen to be the tree that Christianity planted. 
What the early writers on Christianity call the fruits of the Spirit, 
the excellences of the Christian character, grow on this tree. The 
contents of this catalogue of virtues are memorable, and, placed along- 
side the life of Christ, are an unanswerable argument in the pre- 


sent question ; these are, love, joy, peace, longsoffering, gentleness, 
goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, — most peculiarly a catalogue 
of Christian graces, and varied manifestations of the ideal of a Chris- 
tian life as one of self-sacrifice. I am not to be held as maintaining 
that Socrates, for example, and others, did not give expression occa- 
sionally and in passing to some of these virtues ; but it was a pass- 
ing reference. There is no evidence that they were incorporated 
in the life of the people, and none that they were prominent even 
in systems of moral philosophy. Gentleness, humility, and self- 
abnegation were obscured by virtues of the type of courage, partly 
moral and largely physical, and magnanimity, that looked sometimes 
like magnificence. 

There is one point bearing on the present question that has not 
always received the attention in these discussions that it deserves. 
The matter is in the present day unpopular. It has the bad name 
of puritanic fixed upon it, by those who would be delighted with the 
name of pagan re-actionists. I mean the sense of sin and ideal holi- 
ness that comes to us through Judaea and Him " who did no sin 
neither was guile found in His mouth." This sense may have 
sometimes become abnormal and positively mischievous in Christian 
history, but there can be no question that, in a normal condition, it 
bears witness to a deeper moral sensibility, and a higher perception 
of a pure moral life, than can be found in paganism. As Carlyle has 
said, in his rapid way of coming to the heart of any matter, " the 
old world knew nothing of conversion " (nor I may add of repent- 
ance, which is the preliminary to conversion) ; " instead of an ecce 
homo, they had only some choice of Hercules. It was a new at- 
tained progress in the moral development of man. Through Christ 
the highest comes home to the bosom of the most limited. What 
to Plato was an hallucination, and to Socrates a chimera, is now 
clear and certain to your Wesleys." What Carlyle means is, 
that in earlier times consciousness of sin, remorse for an ideal not 
realised, or for a perfect law transgressed,* were little felt, if felt 
at all. 

In the present day the sense of sin as sin is by no means a necea- 

■ i — i ■ M ■ — — — — — — * 

* The Grecian drama seems to contradict this ; bat the agonies of remorse 
which iEschylus, for example, describes, are those which arise from the conflict 
of opposing moral instincts rather than from the feeling of sin as sin, in the New 
Testament sense. They are the outcome of a kind of practical antinomy which 
the moralists of the time, as some think, appear to have taken pleasure in de- 


sary factor in a merely moral, as distinguished from a religions life,* 
bat there can be little question that it has affected the modern moral 
ideal. The feeling of duty, in its present complex form, had barely 
emerged in the early moral consciousness, and the sense of holiness 
related to the feelings now mentioned is not in any degree so pro- 
minent a feature in pagan life as in Jewish. Speculative and prac- 
tical morality did not sound emotions in the moral nature at all 
resembling what the Jewish revelation had done. And it is mere 
matter of history, that with Christ's appearance, and through His 
life and suffering, there came a message to mankind that went 
further than law or precept, poet or prophet before Him had gone. 
It told men how earthly, sinful, selfish, and impure they were. His 
life, by its heavenliness, moved, and moves yet, like a rebuking angel 
among men, censuring their sordid self-seeking by His entire self- 
sacrifice, their pride and magnanimity by His humility, their strifes 
by His undisturbed peace, their hatred by His pure and disinterested 
affection, their severity by His mercy, their malice by His beneficence, 
their low-though tednees by His guilelessness. Many prevalent feel- 
ings and ideas in the sphere of personal morals are derived chiefly, 
if not wholly, from Christian sources. It is not difficult to see the 
wide difference there is between earlier and later times in men's views 
regarding personal purity of life. There is nothing more surprising 
to us in moral history than the unsusceptibility to, what we consider, 
immoral practices, which some of the great and good men in Greece 
are represented as exhibiting. . It is a matter of fact that with the 
ideal of Christ and Christianity men began to view life and its rela- 
tions differently. Their spirits, quickened by this new spirit, saw 
more exactly the true dimensions of an evil action. Now vanished, 
to a large extent, laws of men, customs of society, data of morality, 
TOftTiTTiH of prudence ; and in their stead came the law of Christ and 
His all-perfect life. What the Hebrews represented Jehovah to be 
was more evident to those who came under the influence of Jesus. 
He was felt to be, in a deeper sense than before, the searcher of the 
hearts and the trier of the reins of the children of men. The 
thoughts and intentions of the heart are not less but more important, 
than the actions that reveal them, because out of the heart are the 
issues of life. It may be said with truth, that on moral questions 
men's feelings have, through Christianity, gained a deeper tone, their 

* Mr. Mill, in his Autobiography, speaks of a conviction of sin as something 
utterly foreign to him. 


sentiments nave a higher pitch, their spirits are touched to finer 
issues. Within those who have been affected by its spirit, and, 
we may afterwards see, within all who have come in any way under 
its influence, what I may call, in the sense of Butler, a Diviner con- 
science now bears sway, the echo of a Diviner law. 

One side of the connection we have been considering remains 
to be mentioned, viz., the relation between Christian ideas and 
moral conceptions in the present day, and their possible relations 
in the social life and character of the future. We are to look, it is 
said by some social thinkers, not to the carrying out of the Christian 
ideal for the improvement and advancement of the community, but 
to a quite different ideal. Christianity, it appears, is not only an 
encouragement to poverty and beggary, but also hinders by its doc- 
trine of grace independent moral action, and by its principle of revela- 
tion investigation into truth. There is the same difficulty in meet- 
ing this position, which is that of the scientific side of culture, that 
we found in meeting the statement, similar in spirit, from the Bide 
of industrialism. It seems, however, probably nearer the truth, that, 
viewing Europe and its advancement in scientific investigation, and 
considering the foroes at work in this development, Christianity and 
its principles have been a helping rather than a hindering agency in 
this onward movement. We have seen the influence of Christianity 
on the moral life of modern Europe, and we know that notwithstand- 
ing much that is erroneous in its interpretation since it was founded, 
Christianity still has within itself the seeds that nourish all the 
virtues which have distinguished the pioneers of thought. Those who 
make charges against the repressing influences of Christianity on 
trade and science forget, that there is a possibility of confounding 
ecclesiasticism with Christianity. It may just be possible that Galileo 
was more influenced by the pure spirit of Jesus than the Church that 
persecuted him. I think there is every reason to believe that this 
was the case. I see no good ground for supposing, that the Church has 
been infallibly right in every case in her interpretations of spiritual 
truth and of the religion of Jesus, and that everybody else has been 
wholly wrong. 

A good case could be made out to show, as Mr. Mill has to some 
extent done in his essay " On Liberty," that nominal Christians are 
very far indeed from being like Christ. To Bhow this we need only 
set side by side the actual life of many Christians of the present 
day and the ideal of the New Testament. If a man of thought- 
ful mind, but sceptical of Christian truth, were to ask the bulk 


of Christian men to tell him in what respect their lives differed 
from his practice, does any one imagine he would receive a satis- 
factory answer P The Christians would enlarge upon the benefits 
of Christianity on the whole ; its grand conceptions of life, of duty, 
of God. They would point to the general beneficial influences it 
has had upon the world ; the almshouses, the charities, and hospitals 
it has been the means of raising. But the sceptic might urge : I am 
a practical man, and have not time for generalities ; do you, and 
those you are connected with, distinguish yourselves in the common 
walks of life, in trade and ordinary intercourse, in a way different 
from other men? Do these conceptions you speak of ever get 
further than the lips of Christians ? Christ says, " Love your 
enemies, ... do good to them that hate you ;" His immediate 
followers, doubtless from recollection of His teaching and person, talk 
much of charity, and call it the bond 6f perfectness ; they tell us to 
seek not our own but the things of others ; to set our affections on 
heavenly things not on earthly ; and many other such noble senti- 
ments they utter ; and I want to know, if you, and Christians of 
this year and in this century, translate these noble sentiments into 
nobler deeds P Do you bring into social life with you these Divine 
principles, as you call them, and invariably apply themp Tour 
.coinage circulates with a religions impress, " by the grace of God;" 
is its distribution, so far as you are individually concerned, sub- 
jected to the principles that you, as Christians, believe God -would 
recognise P Do you, even among yourselves, seek to follow the in- 
junction, "Love one another," and give, by your proceedings in 
Christian organisations, the tone which should regulate other social 
bodies P Are Church disputes, for instance, more quietly ordered 
than disputes in the world P Are Church courts more seemly in their 
procedure P Are theological controversies more fall of that charity 
which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, 
than scientific controversy, for example P What could Christians 
answer ? They would, in all probability, say, that to insist on the 
self-surrender which Christ exhibited, to sell all as He taught, to go 
whithersoever Christ went, even to the length of having nowhere to 
lay one's head, is unreasonable and extreme. But, it may be replied, 
it is the Christian scheme, which is based on the idea, that no one 
can be too extreme in goodness. 

Christianity is a great social reforming agency, and it is this side 
of it which the Church has misinterpreted in some ways, and some- 
times wholly overlooked, but which some philosophers, and socio- 


logists, and so-called sceptics have incorporated in their ideas of social 
amelioration ; and it is in this direction that we mast look for the 
interaction of Christian and moral conceptions in the future. No 
attempt has been made, with systematic thoroughness, correctly to 
estimate the full influence of Christian thought and feeling on modern 
social life and opinions, not only directly through the moral element 
in man, which I have incidentally done, but indirectly also through 
all the activities in modern society — a complex and, perhaps, not 
soluble problem. But, after allowing for the operation of other forces 
of great moment, and acting with increasing intensity upon an 
advancing civilisation, ideas have entered into moral life, the growth 
of which appears to be certainly traceable to Christian seed. 
Morality, from having a decidedly selfish tendency, has, in its best 
form, become unselfish. There is an advance, not always sufficiently 
considered, from self-culture as an end, for instance — perhaps the 
most refined form of selfishness — to the good of others as an end, and 
self -culture as one of the most important means for its attainment. 
The moral life, if not in reality yet in idea, has been revolutionised 
since the time of Christ, and gradual and, sometimes, imperceptible 
as have been the steps, the contrast between periods widely apart 
is sufficiently striking, and the progress calculable. It is in not 
recognising this fact, that utilitarian philosophers have generally 
erred, as I have already hinted, and, from their love of analysis, have 
in vain attempted to trace these later ethico-spiritual developments 
to the same source as the moral growths properly so called. In this 
way it is often felt, that no such analysis has been hitherto sufficient 
wholly to account for the elements in self-sacrifice which, in its 
modern form, is a result of the Christian idea. The ordinary psychico- 
chemical process has completely broken down in the analysis of this 
moral quality and its related virtues, because psychologists either 
cannot, or will not, see the new element that is at work. In fact, 
throughout the whole field of moral philosophy there has been failure 
from the non- recognition of ideas, feelings, and sentiments derived 
from Christianity, that have stamped themselves, as it were, on the 
modern moral sense. The great advancement of morals in Europe 
has been by some assigned to other causes, such as industrialism, dis- 
covery in physical science, improvements in government, literature, 
etc., rather than to Christianity. Many of these reputed causes 
are themselves results in the first instance, and are really the original 
cause moulded into the many forms of human activity, and thus 
disguising itself, unless to very minute and careful inquiry. These 



complex agencies nave, undoubtedly, done much to widen the feeling 
of human brotherhood, for instance, which, granting that it is not an 
original Christian notion, yet owes so much to the force and inten- 
sity of the Christian conception and idealisation of it in Jesus, as to 
render it, in its present form, almost exclusively Christian. These 
reputed agencies, however, do little in their naked operations, and 
separated from their primal spring, in fostering this or other virtues 
in the Christian acceptation of them. We all know the extreme 
selfishness, the crass ethical materialism that often attends a purely 
industrial life, when its natural effects are not modified by some 
other parsuits or aims.* Unions of masters against men and men 
against masters, not self-abnegation or neighbourly love, seem to 
be the fruit of industrialism pure and simple. The fact that the 
quality of self-sacrifice, as the Christian ideal, stands its ground in 
modern life, compelling admiration where it does not win submission, 
and has not disappeared under all the weathering agencies to which 
it has been ceaselessly exposed, is due mainly, I believe, to its being 
based on the life of Christ, whose spirit is still in our midst, vita], 
and vivifying many souls. Its expressions in modern life are 
numerous. It permeates, but not always under the name of Christi- 
anity or the authority of those who imagine that they represent 
Christianity, but sometimes protesting against both, into the unseen 
details of the commonest life, adding dignity and nobility to these 
details by the conscious union imparted to men of each with each, 
and of all with an ideal life which is the flower of humanity. In 
more imposing shapes, but not necessarily more noble and winning 
and soul sweetening, we see it in the disinterested pursuit of truth, 
in the unselfishness of our public men,f in that peculiar feature of 
Christianity, its missionary spirit, with its noble self-denial and 
simple self-abandonment, which go a long way to assure us that 
the genius of Christianity is still a veritable power in modern life. 

Although the full effect of the New Testament teaching can only 
be seen in those who consciously and willingly receive Christ's 

* I believe the same statements, with finer epithets perhaps, may be made 
of culture. 

+ America, if we believe accounts regarding its public life, is a country where 
this spirit, in its purest form, seems decreasing, — a sore manifestation in a free 
country of abating Christianity and the choking of the growth of the Christian 
idea by the worst form of the industrial impulse, which results in the subordina- 
tion of love of country and love of others, to self -aggrandisement and personal 


spirit, the personality of Jesus and the spiritual ideas in the Bible 
have had a very extensive influence on the whole civilised world. 
The action of the spirit and teaching of Jesus on all men, who have 
come within the sphere of the forces of Christendom, has been in 
a measure that of an unveiling of the thoughts of their hearts. 
In a greater or less degree, all who have thus, even in an indirect 
way, come into contact with the ideas of the Scripture revelation, 
have had an impulse imparted to them, if not spiritual, yet what 
may be called moral ; * for, as I have said before, the two spheres 
overlap each other in actual life. Christ's appearance has, in an 
appreciable manner, been felt by all ; virtue has gone out of Him, 
and, in a measure, healed the race. As the all-pervading light of 
the natural world, and the varied objects which it displays, affects 
the sensible life of every living thing, and invites the activity and 
motion of their powers, so the life of Christ, which we have seen to 
be essentially a spiritual manifestation, has reached every heart, 
and roused the inner motions to action ; because Christ, although 
in the first instance unfolding the spiritual, must also exhibit the 
highest moral life, from the very fact of His typical manhood. But, 
as in nature, all things are not alike affected by the light, so in the 
movement of the spiritual consciousness, through this spiritual light, 
there are differences in result. As in the sensible world in general 
it often happens, that the senses of some individuals, even when 
affected, do not awaken corresponding intelligent activity in the 
mind, or do not produce this mental response alike in all ; so in the 
spiritual world, although in a manner it is felt by all whom it may 
be said to embrace as an atmosphere, although meeting, if I may 
say so, the sensitivities of the souls of all, it has only in some 
produced the corresponding spiritual result. What may be called 
its general bearing upon the improvement of mankind must not on 
that account, however, be undervalued or lost sight of. 

Much of what is best in our present morality, highest and purest 
in our social customs, most admired in our literature, most benevolent 
in our movements and enterprises for the good of mankind, are re- 

* Sir Bartle Frere, as Governor of Bombay, says : " I speak simply as to 
matter of experience and observation, and not of opinion ; . . . and I assure 
you, that whatever may be told yon to the contrary, the teaching of Christianity 
among 160,000,000 of civilised, industrious Hindus and Mahomedans in India 
is effecting changes, moral, social, and political, which, for extent and rapidity of 
effect, are far more extraordinary, than anything that you or your fathers have 
witnessed in Europe." Quoted by Principal Shairp in Good Words. 

T 2 


relations, in a sort, of men's hearts by Christ, fruits of His spirit, prac- 
tical expressions of the law of living more for others than ourselves. 
It is nevertheless maintained by some, and this with the history 
of morals in Europe for the last eighteen hundred years in their 
hands, that moral life is capable of the highest progression, and man- 
kind of full and perfect development morally and socially, independ- 
ent of Christianity.* Social problems, as I have had occasion to 
remark already, are of a notoriously complex nature, and as yet 
admit in few cases of exact solution. And this question of the 
present and future interaction of morals and religion is one of 
these problems of which we can only hope for the approximate 
demonstration. Two remarks may, however, be made with reference 
to the opinion I have noticed above. In the first place, the factor 
that is imagined to be unnecessary for the further development of 
morals cannot be excluded. The Christian religion, through the 
life of its Founder and its more immediate teachers, has been 
one of the main forces in European life for nearly two thousand 
years. The tendency of this new element in the social forces 
is seen, not only in the morality, but in the industrialism, the 
government, the science, the whole prevailing life and character 
of our time. It cannot even be shown, that we would have reached 
the stage at which we have now arrived in any of these depart* 
ments of human activity, much less in morals, altogether apart 
from the determination of Christianity. And if we cannot do this, 
it is evident how thoroughly incapable we are of fairly trying an 
hypothesis in sociology, which is and must ever remain such. It is 
not with social problems as it is with physical. We cannot actually 
exclude elements in any moral compound and experiment on the 
result produced by the residuum, and then compare that with the 
result produced by the whole. Abstractly even, we are unfit to 
grapple with such a question. For no one can adequately represent 
to himself the multiform effects of any social force upon a complex 
social organism; neither can he see, and properly formulate, the 
multiplying consequences that may flow from the withdrawal of 
any such force, which is no less difficult a problem. But, when the 
question is the withdrawal of an agency in social life that has been 
active for centuries, it becomes plain to any one who knows the 
generating power of social agencies, how intricate such a process 
must be — what discrimination is demanded in order carefully to 

* Had this been put, " independent of the present form of Christianity," 
assent might have been easier. 


detect the later ramifications of this, originally it may be, simple 
enough social element. It will itself have been modified, while it 
has modified the entire living structure into which it was thrown. 
Not in one way only, but in a thousand ways, not always even for 
good, but sometimes also for evil, it will have been working and 
co-operating in individual and social existence, on the moral and 
intellectual parts, and on the physical too. And besides, the 
modified effects will have been interacting — changed intellectual 
conditions upon altered moral feelings and relations, and transformed 
physiological states upon both, and both upon these states, and the 
whole three modified and counter-modified individual forces upon the 
general, social, civil, and governmental condition, and the revolu- 
tions of these combined forms of life upon the simple and individual, 
and conversely. The question needs only to be placed fairly before 
any one conversant with these subjects in order to convince him 
how wild the statement must oe, that we can go on discounting the 
Christian influence ; wild, I say, because it is the statement of incon- 
siderate and rash speculation on social problems. 

The other remark that I would make on the assumed capacity 
inherent in morality of advancing independently of religion is, that 
were it possible to try this experiment, the success of it would be 
more than doubtful. I have no wish to dogmatise on the other 
side, because there could not be a sufficient demonstration of such 
a position, for the reasons that I have already given. The same 
multiplicity and growing complexity render the problem all but 
incapable of solution one way or the other, on mere hypothetical 
grounds. There are some considerations, however, which, although 
not amounting to absolute proof, still carry a weight of probability 
with them which, in social questions, admitting mostly of probable 
answers, is of high importance, as affording a mean result in a 
sphere where we must be guided by averages, or else travel without 
a guide altogether. I refer again to the contribution made by the 
spiritual truth of the Christian religion to the current morality. We 
have seen that the elements which are persistently and most de- 
cidedly altruistic, and which, in their highest manifestations, come 
under the principle of self-sacrifice or the philosophical formulas 
of the Kantian imperative, have resisted the analysis of the moral 
psychologist, and been accepted by the moral intuitionist as d 
priori deliverances of the moral faculty, while in reality they are 
the outcome of the Christian ideal. These, it may be said, however 
originating, are now so closely interwoven with established morality, 


that they have independent root in our moral nature, and may, with- 
out any fear of future decadence, be severed from their source. 
Allow, the psychological moralist may say, that they have been trans- 
planted from Christian soil and a spiritual life into what, if you will 
are merely pagan and moral conditions, they are now bo firmly rooted 
in the latter, that their growth and nourishment are wholly independ- 
ent of their primal conditions ; for the relation, even if dependent 
at the beginning, need not, therefore, be so throughout. 

The implied analogy, in these remarks, between the transplanted 
tree and the transplanted moral feeling is a perfectly just one. The 
tree once transplanted grows ; but if it grows, there are certain 
circumstances conditioning the growth. If the change be from 
the atmospheric influences of the tropics to an extreme the reverse 
of that, no one expects growth, and when life is evident, we know 
that in some way the natural influences of its changed habitat 
have been modified to suit the requirements of the plant. Life is 
persistent in the transplanted vegetable, because the circumstances 
conditioning its life have been persistent. Original transplantation 
of roots and sap is not sufficient ; we have to add to this the con- 
tinuous influences that at first ministered to its vitality, if it is 
to reach the perfection of its species, or even maintain its exist- 
ence. It is well enough known that in animal life, and the instru- 
ments with which it performs its various functions, certain con- 
ditions are necessary for the normal action and proper development 
of its organs, on the withdrawal of which degeneration and defec- 
tive energy of the parts ensue, and ultimately, as is thought, com- 
plete disuse, evident in certain rudimentary parts of very many 
animals. We all have experience how certain mental aptitudes are 
acquired, and some of us may have experience of the reverse pro- 
cess, which is no less a fact. It is a matter perfectly well known 
and authenticated, that moral characteristics vary with varying 
peoples, living under conditions diverse in relation to their fellow 
men, and to external nature. Certain characteristics continue so 
long as their conditioning influences continue, and are changed as 
the latter become modified. The alteration, however, once effected 
is not by any means fixed and unalterable, neither is it necessarily 
progressive in the line of its new departure. Statical conditions 
are rare in social life, and only have place in the very simplest and 
most primitive stages of it, if they have place even there. P* * 
gression in any given direction in social life presupposes, as in 
mechanics, a continuous impulse in that direction, without any op- 



posing force. There must be unqualified persistence in the imping- 
ing force before there can be continuous and persistent motion in 
the direction of its original action. 

The new departures in modern life in Europe, as compared with life 
during the earlier years of the Christian era, and down to the six- 
teenth or seventeenth, and even last century, are the results of new 
forces, or old forces modified. These forces are intricate in the very 
highest degree, and to assign proportionate values to them is at pre- 
sent above the scope of social science. Two of them, however, as we 
have seen, stand out with greater prominence than others, — industri- 
alism, as it is termed, and Christianity. These two are imagined by 
some to be wholly neutralising agencies. This opinion I am not 
called upon at present to consider, although my impression is that it 
may be found to be much too sweeping a statement. In some direc- 
tions they are opposing forces, and, for good or evil, diminish the re- 
sult of each other's impact upon the social body. In other directions 
they may combine most effectually to produce a common positive 
resultant, which would be very perceptibly different by the with- 
drawal of either ; nay, which might be altogether different by such 
withdrawal, on account of the interference of other forces at present 
rendered negative by the union of these controlling influences, but 
which would be made positive by their disunion, or the subversion 
of either. The spirit of industrialism, we know, is kept alive and 
operative by the present constitution of European society, and 
would become extinct and ineffective were this constitution to 
disappear, and the fabric of society to become in consequence 
remodelled. No one can doubt, that in the event of such an 
occurrence — in the event of a revolution in men's activities and 
engagements, we should have a complete mirror, in the course of 
time, of such change in their customs and manners, that is, in their 
whole yinoral life. We would not look for the moral experiences 
that arose out of widespread and universal industrial conditions, 
in circumstances altogether the reverse. The relations and relative 
feelings would vanish together. No longer meeting external objects 
corresponding to the internal state, the internal state would be 
conformed to the objects that it did meet. Annihilate industrialism, 
and the spirit, that, through it, is at present with great intensity 
animating moral and social life and feeling, would disappear. The 
independent advance of morality and social well being would not 
follow, but their retrogression, to the extent, at all events, of their 
dependence on industrialism. Moral life could not maintain the 


original impetus, unless there were an equivalent persistent force. 
It has no self -generating power, but is nurtured from without ; and 
the abstraction of the conditions of growth is a virtual abstraction 
of moral energy. 

It is not otherwise with the second element — Christianity. 
Whatever has been contributed by the spiritual to the moral life 
is not once and for all contributed, but, if it is to be effective, 
must be continually supplied. We cannot morally, any more than 
physically, live upon the food our fathers consumed. If we are 
to nourish our bodies we must find food and eat it for ourselves ; 
and if our moral nature is to grow, we must have fresh nutriment 
and not mere husks or symbols of nutriment. The bare report 
of an industrial movement, that vehemently stirred the lives of 
our ancestors twelve hundred years ago, could not produce any, or 
only the very slightest perceptible, effect upon the society of the 
present day. And no more can the record, that eighteen hundred 
years ago a new influence, in the form of the spirit of Jesus, entered 
into European life, purifying and ennobling it in many ways, purge 
and elevate the characters and impulses of the men of the present 
With regard to industrialism, we require the actual conditions in 
order that the answering feelings may be experienced. It is presum- 
ably the same with regard to the spiritual life through Christ. That 
it had once been a factor in the moral and social life of man is not 
enough. If it is to act effectively along with other moral and social 
forces, it must remain a factor. If there were not continual re- 
appearings of Christ, in men who imbibe His spirit by living in 
intimate relationship with the unseen, like Him, this spiritual force 
would be wholly inoperative on our present social life. The mere 
idea of it, apart from the influence radiating from a living relation 
to the person and life of Jesus, would be without effect. 

" Ye are the salt of the earth," Christ said ; " but if the salt have 
lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted ? " I know not ; I sus- 
pect industrialism could not do it, nor do I as yet see any spirit 
working in men that could do it. I fear, that were morality divorced 
from the abiding influence that comes to it through a pure, vigorous 
spiritual life in Christ, morality itself would not only lose much of 
its power in controlling men's actions, but it would be deprived in 
time of its grander conceptions, its finer feelings, and more delicate 
sentiments. All morality would not, of course, vanish : it is far too 
complex and varied in its origin for any such result to happen, but 
the flower of it would disappear. 



" We boast our light, but, if we look not wisely on the sun, he smites us into 
darkness. The light which we have gained was given us not to be ever staring on, 
but to discover by it onward things more remote from our knowledge." 

It is very often taken for granted, by those who are termed advanced 
thinkers, that the Bible, and the type of life manifested in it, and 
produced by its teaching, have attained their last result — that the 
spirit of Christianity has worked itself out, and like other exhausted 
phases of culture must give place to the new faith, whatever that 
may be. We have even received the names of individuals who are 
regarded as apostles of the new faith and coming order of things 
— men of large thqnght, of earnest mind, who devote themselves to 
the good of their fellow men. All must admire the men, at least all 
who can be attracted by goodness and unselfishness. The world 
sadly needs their best efforts ; but an acknowledgment of these 
efforts must as little blind us to the error of their method, as our 
convictions, that their opinion of the old faith is erroneous, should 
hinder us from recognising the value and importance of their work 
for the general well-being. It is, from the Christian standpoint, an 
extreme opinion, in a large degree the outcome of an opposite 
extreme, which considers the Scripture revelation, and often along 
with that, forms interpretations of the significance of its teaching, as 
the last word on religious matters. 

Between these two extremes of wholesale rejection of the past 
history of religious life and feeling, and indiscriminate acceptance 
of it with all its natural accretions, I am persuaded there is a 
position, which approves itself to the reason of man and his spiritual 
instinct as well. It is the position of Christ Himself in relation to 
the past. His attitude was one of wise criticism. The teaching of 
the New Testament, where it may be said to teach anything on the 
subject, is to prove all things. Assent without proof is no more 
to be commended, than dissent without reason, and is equally mis- 
chievous to the individual. The mere external adhesion to a thing, 
no matter how good that thing be in itself, can never extract the 



goodness from it. The contrary resnlt is more usual. It for ever 
prevents such beneficent effects. Only by incorporating the good, 
through its realisation in ourselves, and making former experiences 
our own by living them, do they ever become a personal possession. 
This, in the case before us, can hardly ever come to pass bo long as 
Christianity is uncritical and spiritual consent merely nominal. An 
uninquiring soul is no more likely to be enriched by the preserved 
treasures of other souls in former times, than an uninquiring mind 
by that accumulated wealth of the past to which the philosophic 
temperament falls heir. You must prove your title to both, and 
to each in the same way, viz., by experience. It is of very little 
moment in the mental history of the mass of mankind that Socrates 
or Plato, that Shakspeare or Goethe, lived and taught. It is the 
prime moment in the history of all thinkers. The mass, however, 
reveres these great teachers, and cherishes their memories, and pro- 
bably purchases their works ; but it is a reverence and a regard that 
spring not from individual knowledge and conviction, but from mere 
hearsay and convention. 

Christendom does very much the same with the representative 
lives in its sphere as civilisation with the representative lives in 
the sphere of culture, and on very much the same grounds. The 
crowd pays most laudable homage, as it thinks, to the Founder and 
leaders of the new kingdom ; their utterances are regarded -with a 
sort of awe and reverential worship that paralyse thought and 
criticism, and leave room only for absorbing adoration. And yet, 
the record of Christ and His teaching, as a constant moment in the 
spiritual life of the masses of Christendom, is at times scarcely 
appreciable.* Whatever influence it has upon them is like the 
influence of the great thinkers I have mentioned, secondary and 
derivative merely. Thus far the parallel is as complete as parallels 
usually are, but it will not admit of being drawn to its full limits 
The untutored masses of modern culture feel, when they reflect upon 
the matter at all, that their perception of Plato and the others is 
defective, and that their regard for them is based merely on, what 
they consider, competent external authority, and not on the internal 
witnessing of their own mind, so to say. Accordingly, they cheer- 
fully give place to men who have made these masters their study, 
and who, in study, have acquired their method, and thoughts, and 

* It may sound strange to some, but I am persuaded that Christianity has yet 
to be expounded. Its social influence is a thing of the future. 


drunk deeply of that more subtle influence which we call their spirit 
— who hare lived over again the master's thoughts, pondered them 
frequently, until they have become their own as well. 

The unspiritualised masses* of modern Christendom behave in an 
exactly contrary manner. They, too, in reality ground their respect 
for the Scripture revelation on authority external to themselves — 
the authority of tradition in one shape or another, and not on 
intimate personal experience and a genuine vital assimilation of its 
spirit and teaching, which is the only legitimate test of its doctrines, 
as well as the only mode of acquiring any knowledge of them 
worthy of the name. But, so far from yielding to those who have 
thus known the mind of Christ, the philistian spirit of Christendom, 
for the phrase is fully more applicable in this connection than in the 
sphere of culture, claims for its perception of scriptural truth a 
degree of exactness which, in the parallel case, would plainly appear 
to themselves, as it does to others, to be wholly unfounded. This 
would be a matter altogether unworthy of notice did it end here. 
But the masses sometimes enforce their claims as the true inter- 
preters of a spiritual life which they have not experienced but only 
heard of, and at the same time disown, and in many cases repress, 
those who in their own spirits have lived this life, and are alone able 
and worthy to be its expositors. This traditionary extreme has had a 
most fatal influence on the development of Christian life and thought. 
The life has been dwarfed to a degree that, after eighteen hundred 
years' growth, is perfectly amazing. The thought has been blighted, 
and nearly killed. For long there was no thought properly and 
distinctively Christian, and at present among ourselves, when it 
shows itself, it is sickly, and apologetic for its intrusion, and, often 
as not, forced to retreat underground, being nipped because of its 
untimely shooting, or, what is the same thing, because of the un- 
genial atmospheric influences that press upon the tender exhibition 
of hidden vitality. The contemplation of these feeble efforts at growth 
and of their unfriendly reception Alls one with much pity and pain, 

* It is a very usual thing to charge one, who makes any reflection on classes 
of men as being without spiritual life and light, with spiritual arrogance, and 
especially with want of charity ; but really the charge may sometimes be with- 
out reason. Those who make it have no hesitation in reflecting on larger classes 
as defective in culture and ignorant, which may be no less arrogant and un- 
charitable. A man of spiritual culture, I hold, feels when he is in the vicinity 
of spiritual darkness just as keenly as a man of literary or scientific culture is 
conscious of the proximity of ignorance. 


while it serves, at the same time, to convince one of the hardy germ 
of thought that lies somewhere inextinguishable, notwithstanding 
the nntowardness of its surroundings. This is nowhere else than in 
the spirit of that book, which, whether or not we may extend and 
help to complete, we can never entirely or to any great extent super- 
sede. The attempt and the strong desire to deprive modern life and 
culture of the lessons that the Bible still has for ns, is a not very un- 
natural consequence of the extreme traditionary manner of regarding 
it. Life in the present day is anything but frivolous and speculative ; 
it is intensely earnest and practical. A man of any seriousness and 
sense of reality views with impatience a lazy leaning towards a past 
that has no manifest continuity with the life within him and around 
him ; and traditionalism, which has assumed the name and all the 
external marks of Christianity, presents to his mind the excess of this 
backward attitude. Unhappily he does not always inquire for himself 
into the rights of the question, or, inquiring, is met by opposition 
and general execration, and as unhappily retires from contact with 
a cause with so unfortunate a following. But the man must have 
faith of some kind. He must still give utterance to the life within 
him, his spirit pants for an atmosphere in which to live and work, 
for in work is its life, and not in dull quiescence and comfortable 
entry into another's labours. 

Thus arises the new faith with its conceptions of the common 
good, and its manful labours to get this by legislation and social 
amelioration of various kinds. A very noble faith, making ignoble 
much that passes for the old faith. It is a real thing and personal 
to a man — not merely conceptional for us in the present day, while 
actually belonging to men long since dead. It has an element sus- 
ceptible of growth. Development, advancement, progress are its 
watchwords. And what ravishment does there not lie in such words 
for an energetic man filled with benevolence, burning with love for 
his fellow-men, consumed with the desire for their improvement ? 
It is freedom itself and a kind of elemental existence for such a soul. 
But, to be in a sphere where growth has entirely ceased, where the 
watchwords are tradition and retrogression, is, to such a spirit as I 
have now spoken of, slavery itself with the clogging of aspiration 
and the stifling of life, that are ever the accompaniments of any kind 
of bondage. Who can wonder at some breaking loose from such 
conditions ? I regret this sort of severance, both for the sake of 
the men and for the interests of society, as much as any one, but 
without being surprised at it. Every one must equally regret the 


circumstances in modern Christian life that are, beyond question, the 

occasion of this severance. There is much in the new faith that is. 

undoubtedly good. The same thing cannot always be said for the 

crass traditionalism that has given birth to it. If this traditionalism 

were the natural outcome of the old faith, there would be little to 

be said about it. We could quietly drop a thing that had, by 

natural laws, proved itself obsolete, and lay hold on what, by the 

same laws, approved itself to the necessities of the times. If it is 

the case that on the heels of the past, — 

" a fresh perfection treads, 
A power more strong in beauty," 

we would not be true to ourselves, we would hardly be true to much 
that, in Christianity, impels to the perfection of oar nature, did we 
not attach ourselves to this new power, and force from it this Divine 

There is " a fresh perfection " which traditionalism disclaims, and 
which the new faith misinterprets. The new faith imagines this per- 
fection to be the creature of the times, the child of circumstances 
merely, having no legitimate connection with the old. It does not 
see that it is actually u born " of it, nor does traditionalism see that 
the very conception of Christianity presupposes such a birth. There is 
entire agreement between the two great parties of Christendom in a 
recognition of the new facts. The party of progress and the party of 
order here can only be formed into hostile ranks, as they are formed 
everywhere else, when the connection of the new facts is sought. 

The new faith and the old in the spiritual sphere have their 
counterpart in every sphere of thought and experience. We shall 
not go out of our way to show the grounds of attachment that natu- 
rally lead some to the old and others to the new. It is an interesting 
but a wide field of psychological inquiry, dealing with the natural 
idiosyncrasies and acquired tendencies of character, rather than with 
questions of evidence in favour of the two positions. My subject is 
simpler than this, if not so attractive, and consists, not in showing 
why such sides are taken, but what position (I would not say side) 
should be taken in a given instance. It is rarely, if ever, — I may 
say it never happens, — that a side is the true position. It is neither 
true to facts, nor, what is in the end a most important matter for 
the individual, is it the standpoint from which a fair and full know- 
ledge of all the facts can be obtained. It is the worst point of ob- 
servation. There is excessive refraction without any means of 
calculating the angle. Popular opinion is always ranged on sides 



and moves in a mass, because it is under the sway of feeling. 
Sympathy and, if you will, prejudice drive it to the ranks of a parti- 
cular party. It is for ever rendered incapable of knowing its own 
side truly, and is under constant temptation, which sometimes be- 
comes irresistible, of misunderstanding its opponents. As certain as 
the feelings move with the one side they move against the other, and 
in equally ordered phalanx. For drilled mechanical performances 
the spectacle is not without interest. As the movements of reasonable 
beings, there is a sad kind of humour in it. The demagogue appeals 
with certain success to the crowd in the name of personal freedom — 
the rights of individual reason ; and the success is certain, because 
neither freedom nor reason have place in the excited mob, welded 
together by a massive feeling which may, or may not, have a reason- 
able origin. 

The position and true point of view on the question before us lies 
neither on the side of the new faith nor on that of traditionalism, but 
somewhere between them. It avoids traditionalism by a wise criti- 
cism of the past and a living reception of its principles into the new 
forms of social and individual existence, as distinguished from an on- 
inquiring acceptance and a merely mental conception of its doc- 
trines. It keeps clear of the extravagance of the new faith, by 
founding its spiritual life and its idea of it on the experiences of the 
spiritual consciousness of former times, but without resting on these 
experiences as traditionalism does. To put it in another form, the 
tendency of traditionalism in this matter is to an historical relation 
with past spiritual life, and that of the new faith to, what it would 
call, a mythical relation, while pure Christianity is opposed to both 
in being a vital relation. I say pure Christianity, that is Christianity, 
as we see it represented in Christ Himself and His immediate fol- 
lowers. And their representation is that of the greatest spiritual 
intelligences in Judaism. The men of deepest spiritual insight, of 
most intimate relation with the Spirit of Jehovah, and who did most 
to cultivate the spiritual consciousness among the Jews, were alike 
opposed to traditionalism and to anything that might, in their time, 
exist resembling the new faith of the 19th century.* Thus, they 

* The essential principle of the new faith is old enough, and, in fact, so far 
we know, always existed. It is the assertion of the visible, as opposed to the in- 
visible ; the acceptance of sensible relations, as opposed to, and exclusive of, those 
that are spiritual. I know the pure, if not the spurious, professors of this faith 
will take no offence, as I certainly do not intend any, when I say further, that 
the principle of the new faith is the postulation of law, as opposed to God. 






corrected, with the same faithfulness and severity, tendencies both 
to ritualism and external ceremonies as well as lapses into unbelief 
and denial of Jehovah, with the view of keeping constantly before | 

the nation the great facts of a spiritual life, and aiding in per- J 

fecting this in individual members of the commonwealth. These 
leaders of the spiritual consciousness were by no means men raised ' 

up to repeat the teaching of former teachers, although they did 
this also. They were themselves gifted with a new message. They 
appeared with a Divine mission. They felt impelled to utter the 
new spiritual truths that were burning within them. There is 
nothing resembling a rehearsal from memory in these energetic and 
vigorous utterances of individual experience. Whatever in the past 
is good and appropriate to the circumstances, is repeated and en- 
forced, even as is done by us in other matters at the present day. 

Reform has not, even in its advanced modern expressions, under* 
taken such thorough measures as these ancient speakers for Jehovah 
advocated. The new faith has borrowed its watchwords of advance- 
ment and progress from these great moral and spiritual reformers. So 
profound was their conception of this natural tendency in the human 
spirit, so assured were they of the ultimate triumph of the true and ' 

the good in the perfection of our race-, that their look naturally be- 
came a forward one, as I have already pointed out, and they them- 
selves became best known as prophets — speakers of what is yet to 
be, as seers — discerning, from their own lofty spiritual position the 
march of righteousness to final victory over evil. They kept a firm 
hold on the past, only, however, to raise themselves to a higher level 
in the future. But it was on what was true in the past, and not on 
what was false. Never on the false could they have reared the 
future of which they were so certain. It was because of their wise 
criticism of the past that advancement was possible. Without this, 
the future would merely be a sinking deeper and deeper in the mire 
of a traditionalism, out of which no spiritual prophecies ever could 

This goes far to explain why the priests, as a class, are distinct 
from the prophets, and often opposed to them. The priestly spirit 
everywhere is invariably opposed to the prophetic, to life and ad- 
vancement, because of its bondage to the graveclothes of traditional- 
ism. Criticism first, removal of abuses, then progression from the 
nucleus of truth, round which these abuses had accumulated, charac- 
terise, on the contrary, the prophetic spirit. We never see the 
Hebrew prophets, for example, accept these abuses, nor proceed 




from themselves, and out of relation to the truth of the past They 
would have found no common bond of sympathy with the nation in 
snoh measures, nor could they have been, what they represented 
themselves to. be, Jehovah's servants, had they thus ignored former 
spiritual revelations. The progress here, as elsewhere, must hare 
continuity in it. So they dig into the sediment of tradition, 
which had actually crystallised itself on certain spiritual truths. 
Tradition must always have such a centre, and this centre may be 
found by diligent search. The prophets, accordingly, dig into this 
and remove it as refuse, and lay bare the fact beneath. " To what 
purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me P saith the Lord: 
I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; 
and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he- 
goats." What lies under this accretion of tradition the prophet 
proves to be : " Wash you, make you clean ; put away the evil of 
your doings from before Mine eyes ; cease to do evil ; learn to do 
well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, 
plead for the widow." On this it is possible to advance to further 
spiritual manifestations, and to build up a spiritual consciousness in 
the people, which is only bounded in its progress by a vision of a 
time when " judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteous- 
ness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness 
shall be peace ; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assur- 
ance for ever" — a time "when the people shall be all righteous." 
Traditionalism never could dream of this, far less live and speak as 
if it saw it in the near future, and unflinchingly, against all prejudice 
and popular inclination, work for its attainment.* 

But why should I prove this ? The position of modern iradi- 
tionalism itself is, that within the Old Testament and the New 
there is development, an onward growth and purification of the 
idea of God, as well as of the spiritual consciousness to which the 
revelation is manifested — a growth, during some periods, hardly per- 
ceptible, but again in others stimulated by the advent of men of God 
to a fuller unfolding, until in Christ it attains maturity, and, at the 

* The story of Noah, the early preacher of righteousness, and the ark, may 
perhaps contain a hidden allusion to some such struggle between him and hi* 
contemporaries. His preserving not only a righteous seed on the earth, but 
also animala of every kind, looks perplexing. If we consider, however, the near 
connection in a Jewish mind between righteousness and well-being, this incident 
will not appear quite so strange. A good deal must, of course, be allowed for the 
drapery of the story in explaining some of the minor details. 


same time, a self-consciousness and calm mastery that could only be 
found in One who revealed the Father, because He was one with 
Him, as He Himself says, and not merely fitfully in communion 
with Him. This self-possession and true proportion of the prophetic 
spirit are manifested not only in a fuller present revelation of the 
Divine, but, preliminary to that, in a wise criticism of the past, 
from which alone this fuller revelation with its clearer future out- 
look can spring. Priests did not escape His rebuke. He did not 
hesitate to comment upon an ordinance of Moses. Traditionalism 
and practical unbelief had never before known a more sternly un- 
compromising enemy. " Leave all and follow Me," is His one an- 
swer to men burdened in any way, whether with money or prejudices. 
A needful answer and the only true starting point, as may after- 
wards be seen, for those who would enter the new kingdom and be- 
come its citizens, and thereby become like Him who is like God. 

We are not to suppose, however, that Christ, any more than the 
early prophets, was a blind iconoclast. The prophets, as I have 
already pointed out, never interrupted the true succession of genuine 
spiritual revelation, by the destruction of the work of former seers. 
There is an ordered thought, and frequently a course of spiritual 
conception, taken up by later prophecy, and repeated, and enlarged, 
but never subverted. We find primitive manifestations gradually 
broadening with the developing spiritual consciousness. Christ dis- 
tinctly says that He came not to destroy the law or the prophets. 
The conception, that His mission was destructive of the past, is not 
dependent on this direct statement for its contradiction. The whole 
course of His life and teaching yield an absolutely opposite conclu- 
sion. He needed, as much as the prophets, the past to work upon. 
The development of spiritual ideas, and the corresponding evolution 
of the spiritual consciousness throughout the past, formed the neces- 
sary platform of His operations. They were, what the Bible calls, 
the fulness of the times ; the religious expression of a patent enough 
social fact in Judaism. His aim, therefore, was not to destroy but 
to fulfil. Whenever a fitting occasion presents itself, He first refers 
to these utterances of His forerunners, either as a basis for further 
upbuilding of the Divine idea, or as an ultimate answer to a definite 
question. A lawyer, to whom I previously had occasion to refer, 
came to Him and asked, What shall I do that I may inherit eternal 
life ? Christ does not seek to disturb the man's moral and intel- 
lectual training by answering the question, probably, of his life in 
some strange and entirely novel manner. He does not profess to 




have a new revelation on the point, bat refers the man to the past : 
" What is written in the law ? how readest thon ? " The lawyer 
is well enongh versed in the law to give the answer. Only what is 
necessary to complete the answer does Christ supply to the ancient 
Divine utterance : Do this, and you shall not only know how yon 
may inherit eternal life, but you shall now have that life. 

That is an exemplification of Christ's method and mission, which He 
formulates as not a subversion of the past, but a fulfilment of what 
was true and Divine in it. If He had absolutely new doctrines to 
propound, and it is not necessary to suppose that He had, in order to 
prove His superiority to all who preceded Him, He does not bring 
them always to the front, but appears rather to be anxious to unfold 
old truths, to widen obsolete doctrines, to put a life into the dry 
bones of the current beliefs of His time.* The sequel of the inter- 
view, to which I have alluded, shows this much more vividly, than 
any remarks of mine can do. The lawyer is desirous to justify him- 
self, as a questioner on a matter which he knows, by further asking, 
Who is my neighbour P This question was a subject of great in- 
terest to the mind of the scribes of Christ's day, and before His time. 
Interpreters of the law had wasted much logic in trying to settle the 
limitations of this phrase, in accordance with their literalism* Who 
is my neighbour P might, for anything we know, be what is now 
called a test question, or equivalent to an article of belief among the 
then religious sects. It is fully as practical and vital as articles with 

* Some men, with more diligence than insight, have put Christ's utterances in 
parallel columns with similar, or nearly similar statements, in the Old Testament 
and apocryphal writings, for the purpose of dwarfing His position in the spirited 
sphere. While doing so, they generally overlook nicer shades of difference between 
the two contrasted statements, and the relative prominence of truths in each; 
bnt what is the most important point, they forget that the life of a spiritual bemg 
is infinitely more valuable than his utterances — that in moral and spiritual beings 
the life is all in all. Christ's oral discourses are not very extensive, the charm, if 
I may say so, of His personality has been proved to be as universal and diffusive as 
sunlight. Living a truth is above all speaking about it. Our greatest men are 
not necessarily our greatest writers or speakers. I believe they are only rarely 
such. Milton, who was both great, and wrote great things, gives the true order 
of greatness as well as the definition of the word. " He alone is worthy of the 
appellation [great] who either does great things, or teaches how they may be 
done, or describes them with a suitable majesty when they have been done ; tact 
those only are great things, which tend to render life more happy, which increase 
the innocent enjoyments and comforts of existence, or which pave the way to 
a state of future bliss, more permanent and more pure." By such a test Christ 
has been tried, and His influence has been felt through the greatness so eloqnentlT 
described by Milton. 


which we are all familiar. Christ was, no doubt, aware of the de- 
batings,the arguments and counter arguments, the mental mist and 
confusion that had settled round this point. There had sprung up an 
entire literature on the subject ; just as we have our technical litera- 
ture on very nice points. But the definitions of the theologians had 
been, as they not unfrequently are still, singularly unsatisfactory and 
contradictory. The law doubtless, to a single-minded spiritual man, 
appeared clear and explicit enough in its teaching concerning neigh- 
bourly love. Clearness, however, is not what the genuine theologian 
likes best, and so he sqeks through a metaphysical process to escape, 
probably without intention, the spirit of the command. Christ, as 
was His wont, sweeps away all these cobwebs,* and by a picture 
sketched on the spot where they stood — a picture showing at once 
the highest art, the finest insight into life, the keenest appreciation of 
nature, the deepest knowledge of man — He sets this vexed question 
of the Jewish doctors in no shadowy light. What fine havoc does 
not the inimitable story of the good Samaritan make of their great 
subtleties ! He first directs a delicate irony against the theory of 
the learned men, and then exhibits, with a tenderness as delicate, the 
meaning of neighbour to, what He would call, the single-eyed man. 
Never, perhaps, was a sarcastic weapon handled so skilfully, never 
was an arrow sent home with truer aim. Was ever richer comfort, 
nobler doctrine sent to man ? Yet it is the teaching of the law. 
The picture of the Samaritan, which we have all seen from infancy 
hanging in our homes, and the reflection of which we have carried 
in our hearts from childhood, is considered the true note of Chris- 
tianity. It appears to sum up all that is best in its spirit. But, 
the ancient books of the Jews contained the very same sentiment, 
and others besides, as full of, what we call, Christian kindliness. 
From Sinai their forefathers had heard kindness, and compassion, 
and universal love enjoined. The voice that thundered out the law 
had also whispered, " Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress 
him. ... If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, 
thou shalt surely bring it back to him again." And what litera- 
ture of any country, or any time, can equal the passage in Job xxix.,f 

* We need Hie spirit, which, by doing a like thing for us, will lead us into all 

t " When the ear heard me, then it blessed me ; and when the eye saw me 
it gave witness to me : because I delivered the poor that cried, and the father- 
less, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready 
to perish came upon me : and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. . . . 

z 2 



where the poet unveils tons a soul moved by infinite tenderness 
and pity towards the poor and distressed ? 

But, although the same truth underlies both Testaments, there is 
a widening of application from the Old to the New. No abstract 
teaching could so well have helped a Jew of Christ's day, or so well 
aid us of the present day, if we exercise any historical sense we 
have, to appreciate the growth and expansion of the idea and feel- 
ing of neighbourliness from Moses to Christ, as the selection of a 
Samaritan for the pattern and type of the ideal neighbour. This was 
Christ's positive contribution to an older truth. His negative and 
critical attitude preceded this. Traditionalism had been working on 
the old revelation, and its work must be undone. He, accordingly, set 
the leaders of the current conceptions to dramatise their speculations 
in that lonely mountain scenery between Jerusalem and Jericho. 
The scenery was sterile enough, but not more forbidding than the 
spirits of the actors. When dramatised, their speculations appeared 
worse than ludicrous, they were profane. In a similar way I have 
sometimes dramatised to myself, and made as concrete as I was 
able, some speculations in theology of somewhat later date, the im- 
mediate effect of which on my mind, however salutary in the end, 
was anything but pleasing. 

The story of the good Samaritan has many lessons for us. It 
exhibits the general method of handling spiritual themes which Christ 
practised, in contrast to the quasi-scientific method of interpreters 
and commentators in all times. It also shows us how plain and 
simple to an enlightened spiritual consciousness in union with the 
Divine was a riddle, that had puzzled the doctors of the law ; with 
how clear a vision He could look on the leading principles of our 
spiritual nature, whose meat it was do His Father's will ; how far 
above all intellectual knowledge* of a thing is living it ; how clear 

I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor ; 
and the cause which I knew not I searched out." 

* Intellectual knowledge is very often spoken of as if it were wholly an 
unmixed good, whereas it is on some occasions anything but this. It is an 
attempt to state experience of some sort or another, and always a more or less 
inadequate representation of such experience ; at best partial, disjointed, and 
sometimes so much so, as to be positively false. In order that it may become 
a good, we should recognise its limits. Where we fail to do this, mere in- 
tellectual knowledge is almost certain to prove ultimately injurious to our 
nature as a whole, in hindering the due expansion of its complex parts, and 
thereby standing in the way of the enlargement of our acquaintance with the 
sum of things. 



£ z . a head comes from a large, well acting, loving heart. The purpose 

for which we notice the story here is to illustrate Christ's position 

to the spiritual life and literature of His time, as one of criticism 

j. and advance. The absence of any philosophical theory, or even of 

. hints for the formation of a theory, concerning the nature of the 

', old revelation and its record, is characteristic of the whole teach- 

ing of Jesus. The official teachers of His day had, on the other 

hand, as we have seen cause to believe, what our stricter theology 

would call thoroughly exact notions about the sacredness of their 

canonical Scriptures, down probably to their words and letters. But 

we have no difficulty in perceiving from His manner of meeting 

their opinions and speaking of their lives, that, in their theorisings 

^ on the channel of revelation, they had not come very close to the 

k * revelation itself, but, on the contrary, had wandered further from 

tt the influence of its living power. The distinctive spirit of Christ's 

-■' teaching, as compared with that of the recognised interpreters of 

a ' the time, consists in its practical indifference to theory about the 

,ff conveyance of Divine truth. It is, thus, that questions, which were 

ai of prime importance to the lawyers and the scribes, were utterly 

* insignificant to Him. He betrays impatience with all such. Great 
:: spiritual truths and leading ideas — the spiritual life power in the 

Old Testament Scriptures is all with which He concerns Himself. 

* As we have seen in one crucial example, He first seeks to dispel the 
~ fog that may have gathered round any truth, by removing it alto- 
t gether from the halls of learning, where so much of that atmosphere 
' is generated, and thereafter clothes it anew in flesh and blood. He 

has no consideration for mere dialectic skill, that spins its theories 
from the material supplied by an abnormal brain, but with an 
amazing freedom and wide open look, which those that name them- 
selves with His name have rarely acquired, He sees things as they 
really are, not as the schools or recognised intellectual guides repre- 
sent them ; and it is for this reason that His utterances come to us 
fresh and true, as reflected from a mind undisturbed by prejudice, 
and mirroring the Divine in the deep of its translucent soul. It is 
from the higher regions, in which He continually moves, that He is 
able to discern the abiding among the transient, in the sacred books of 
His countrymen — that He escapes the confusion between the letter 
and the spirit, — lessons which the ancient prophets taught by their 
free quotations from former seers, in which they were careful only of 
the principle involved in vision or doctrinal utterances, and little 
mindful of subsidiary matters. The quotations were made, not out 



of empty respect for their predecessors, and to confirm their Divine 
mission, but to add to, and develop, the spiritual truth of former 
days. Their view of Scripture was not the view that is too common, 
and which Bacon may have had in his mind when he says : " What- 
soever knowledge cannot at all work upon, and convert, is a mere 
intoxication, and endangereth a dissolution of mind and spirit." 

The prophets, and all true speakers for God, regard the past ex- 
periences of men likeminded with themselves, as something to work 
upon, not to rest in. Had this not been the case, the prophets 
would have been like the rest of the nation, idly settling down in a 
complacent and ignorant worship of the externals of revelation; 
and Judaism, instead of being the cultivator of spiritual truth, and 
the seedbed of, what has been called, the God-consciousness, would 
have hardened into traditionalism, which it very often did in the 
intermediate periods of great prophetic excitation. Instead of 
growth of mind and spirit in Divine things, which is its character 
as a whole, there would have been disintegration and ultimate decay. 
I have no idea that the conditions of spiritual vitality are in this 
respect, at least, different from those of a physical or mental life. 
The alternative, in all cases, is progression or degeneracy. In Judaism 
itself the principle is plainly seen at work. When the true prophetic 
spirit had attained its highest level in individuals, the nation at 
large, and notably individuals in it, had sunk so far as to " seek unto 
them that have familiar spirits and unto wizards that peep and 
mutter."* It was men like Isaiah who, with profound respect for 
the past, built upon an intelligent insight into the true and false 
which it contained, cut himself off from the traditionalism that pre- 
served ancient practices simply because they were ancient, without 
considering whether they were true and Divine, or merely the neces- 
sary concomitants of a primitive spiritual culture. These admix- 
tures of error he flung from him, but only to cling more tenaciously 
to the truth that lay beneath them. This he found to be intercourse 
with, and knowledge of, God. " Shall not a people seek unto their 
God P " There is a growing clearness of spiritual vision, and an 
ncreasing calmness of utterance in this period as compared with the 
confusion and relative turgidity of the earlier seers. This growth is 
confined largely, however, like all inner growth everywhere, to the 
choice spirits in Judaism. The multitude as usual lived some cen- 
turies behind their leaders. So keenly did the advanced spiritual in- 


* Isa. yiii. 19. 


telligences feel the backwardness of the masses, that we find them 
compelled to denounce those, who, under the mask of prophets, minis- 
tered to their superstition and ignorance. " Let not jour prophets and 
your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken 
to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed."* " And it shall come 
to pass that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother 
that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live ; for thou 
speakest lies in the name of the Lord."f " Israel," says Ezekiel 
(xiii. 4, 6), " thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts ; . . . they 
have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The Lord saith : and 
the Lord hath not sent them." Here and throughout Old Testa- 
ment history we have abundant illustration of the outcome of tradi- 
tionalism in Divine things, on the one hand, and, on the other, of the 
result of an enlightened spiritual consciousness, that can discern the 
wheat from the chaff. Native impoverishment of heart and life, and 
a dead standstill or backward movement, inevitably accompany the 
former ; enrichment from the past, and inspiration to farther ad- 
vancement, are the inevitable consequences of the latter. 

It was the prevalence of this wise criticism among the ruling spirits 
in Judaism that made Christ possible, and led up to Him who is its 
flower and fruit. The flower and fruit of Judaism become, how- 
ever, the seed of Christianity, a fact that is never to be forgotten. 
The statement is Christ's, not mine, and history has confirmed its 
truth. Fructifying in Judoa, the seed has been scattered far and 
wide. It found a lodgement in Paul's spirit and conditions of growth 
there, — a good soil, as Christ says. The evidence of this we have in 
the new growing life of the man, when he had been lifted out of the 
stagnation of traditional Judaism. Never did the seed find a more 
congenial set of conditions. Hear how he expresses his relation to 
the past and the future. It is the race, with its impressive energy 
of the whole man, that can alone picture this — the race with its firm 
footing on the receding distances to render its eager grasping of the 
untraversed course more sure and certain. " I count not myself to 
have apprehended : but this one thing I do : forgetting those things 
which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are 
before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of 
God in Christ Jesus. "J That is the legitimate action of Christ's 
spirit upon the human consciousness. This picture, we know, will 
by some be confined to the straining after a perfect spiritual life and 

* Jer. xxix. 8. t Zech. xiii. S. { Phil. iii. 13, 14. 


likeness to Christ. Such perfection and likeness, however, are in- 
separable from an inward growth of spiritual perception, and in- 
creased apprehension of Divine things. Knowledge and life are only 
different names for the same thing. That this is really the meaning 
of St. Paul in this place will be seen by reference to the previous 
course of his thought. " I count all things bat loss . . . that I 
may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship 
of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." Know- 
ledge and life are, with Paul, as they were with Christ and all the 
greater spiritual natures of the Old and New Testament, co-relative. 
In Christ's words, which are as applicable to this as to any other 
aspect of Christian life, " no man having put his hand to the plough, 
and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of Grod." The movement is 
forward. Again and again, advancement is urged upon all. We are 
entreated to go on unto perfection. 

It might be shown, in fact, that the progress in many spheres of 
activity, which is so characteristic a feature of modern life, has its 
origin, or, at least, one of its greatest forces, in the primal impulse 
of the spirit of Christianiiy . A movement in social life is rarely con- 
fined within its original limits, but extends itself to modes of activity 
outside these. Increased political activity, for example, will react 
upon literature, and a new-born energy in literary life will manifest 
itself in the religious sphere, and vice versa. It may sometimes hap- 
pen, as it happened in the instance above alluded to, that the impulse 
is operative in the conditions into which it has been translated, for 
a long time after it has ceased, or been weakened, in those in which 
it was native. This is partly owing to a favourable concurrence of 
circumstances in the former case, and partly to the later introduction 
of the impulse, as a factor in these conditions. At any rate, the 
Christian life, as a mode of perceiving the Divine, of enlarging our 
experience of spiritual verities, and strengthening our powers of 
living and knowing, and in this way contributing to the spiritual 
treasures of the past which have come down to us, has fallen far 
behind the industrial life and scientific life in these respects. It has 
fallen so low, in fact, that it recognises its lapsed position as neces- 
sary and natural, and has no desire to rise. It has an extreme 
aversion to anything or anybody, that suggests the possibility of an 
upward movement. Progress is inevitable in industrial and scientific 
pursuits, and men bend themselves to it with as much joy and passion 
as Paul did to the spiritual race. But to strain after progress in the 
Divine life gives them much the same sensation, as it would give a 


paralytic man to try a foot race. Prolonged disuse has had its natural 
consequences, in enfeebling the faculties. The rudiments of them, 
no doubt, are there, but it requires a psychology of an extremely 
incisive kind to discover them ; and the uninquiring man denies the 
conclusion of the investigator using such means, and appeals to his 
own experiences. But he never had any experiences himself. He 
lives upon the experiences of men who lived long ago. Traditional- 
ism stands before the spiritual, as men in the earliest times stood 
before the natural world, with awe and terror in their hearts. The 
result of this mythical stage of humanity on mental growth and 
power of observation, on advancement in science and general well- 
being, has been already characterised. Criticism had not awakened, 
and advancement could not proceed without it. Instead of this, myth 
crowded on myth and overlaid the natural truth, so as to render it 
almost inextricable. Traditionalism now and then received a shock 
by the advent of a genuine natural philosopher, who did some good 
destructive work, and, to the pure result of rational observation in 
the past, added his own intelligent conclusions. A period of tradi- 
tionalism intervened, or rather, its temporary overthrow by the spirit 
of criticism was followed by an ascendancy that was always more or 
less widely acknowledged, and reason and truth had once more to 
assert themselves. The battle has never ceased ; but it is not difficult 
to see, at the point at which we have arrived, what the ultimate issue 
will be. The conviction has been forced upon men, long before our 
day, that truth will prevail. It is this conviction that has given 
nerve to those who bore its banners, when bearing them was not so 
safe a post of duty as it is now. 

There has followed in spiritual life, from an attitude towards the 
Bible similar to that of primitive intelligences towards nature, similar 
results in spiritual growth, in capacity for truthful observation and 
progress in Divine knowledge. The mythical stage, in the intellectual 
life, is, in the main, left behind, and has become a matter of history. 
We are at this moment, however, leading a mythical spiritual life. 
The fear, and exaggerated feeling of dread — I can hardly call it 
reverence, for we can never feel too profound a reverence before 
either nature or the record of the spiritual experiences of other men 
— with which we approach our Bible and its teaching involuntarily 
recall to us the terror that nature at first inspired. Investigation, 
in the true sense of that term, is suspended on biblical subjects, for 
our eyes, as Christ says, are holden, and a reasonable spiritual appre- 
hension is impossible to us. We have instead myth piled on myth, 


with an element of Divine truth, which is, however, almost wholly 
nndiscernible ; and this phantasmagoria of the spiritual imagination 
receives all but universal respect, — I cannot quite say belief. Kos- 
mical mythology maintained its hold on the popular esteem, for a 
long time after the majority had ceased actually to believe it 9 
Mnch of this spiritual mythology is comprised in what is called 
dogmatic theology, and a very great deal of it is to be found in 
creeds and confessions. These are at present very much in a mytho- 
logical position. They have the impress of traditionalism, and are 
wholly opposed to a wise criticism. Their successive additions are 
not the outcome of living personal spiritual observation and expe- 
rience, but rather the logical sequence of earlier traditions. Their 
development, as it is termed, is a development not of spiritual 
truth or of the expression of its perception by the human spirit; 
it is rather the expansion of theological mythology : for it is the na- 
ture of myth to beget myth, as every one knows who has studied 
the question. I know I shall be told, that kosmical mythology was 
a poetic and imaginative product — that the theological myth is 
logical and abstract. Both, indeed, take their shape and colouring 
from the faculty, predominating at the period and in the places, in 
which they take their rise. But, all the faculties are at work in each. 
Imagination more or less, however, moulding the first, and logical 
thought the second, but neither exclusively. Let any one examine 
a confession of faith, for example, and he will find a highly pictorial 
element underlying the abstract form of the document. It iB this, 
indeed, that has given such documents their hold upon the public 

I wish to note this consequence of any mythology, that it stands 
to those who hold it, as the representation of fact, and, by its inter- 
vention between them and the living realities of spiritual or. natural 
objects, intercepts for the majority all possibility of true and face to 
face perception of these realities. Kosmical mythology did this to 
all but a few, and the postponement of pure science, the arts, and 
the conveniences of material well-being was the result. Theological 
mythology has done the same thing for generations in religions 
experience, and the backward condition of the perception of spiritual 
truth, and the little influence Christianity has on common life, are 
traceable to this. Men do not go to the fountain ; they go merely 

* This is well known to be the ease with very many at present in relation to 
religious and theological questions. 



to certain streams. Some have not courage to go direct to the 
source ; while others, from their position, and pledged as they are to 
the mythology, dare not go beyond that mythology. Others again, 
with perfect honesty, accept the present state of affairs, and have, 
naturally enough, no wish to overturn that in which they believe. 
Thus supported, and leaving out of consideration the powerful feel- 
ings that may be called into action on a matter so momentous as that 
of the spiritual life, traditionalism, with its satisfaction in the expe- 
riences of other men as if they were its own experiences, seems more 
than a match for a wise criticism, which, while respecting all truth 
that the human spirit ever perceived, manifests its respect by prov- 
ing the truth, and thereafter incorporating it into the sum of its 
experiences, in order that it may add thereto. 

Criticism in theology has I am aware a bad name. There is a 
criticism, however, which, basing itself on entire acceptance of 
Christ, and proceeding from the power of His life in the spirit of 
man and from conscious communion with Him, and the feeling of 
dependent help springing from that communion, is nowhere destruc- 
tive, but everywhere reverently constructive. If a man can honestly 
affirm, that Christ " is to him the ultimate certainty, for which he is 
prepared gladly and unhesitatingly to hazard all other pretended 
knowledge that may be opposed to it ; that he knows no other fixed 
point on which he could cast the anchor for his whole human interest 
and concern, and in particular for his thought, except the historical 
fact which the sacred name of Jesus signifies : "* if a man occupies 
ground like this, his treatment of the past will never be otherwise 
than that of a wise criticism. This, however, it must be. No mere 
traditionalism could satisfy such a spirit, any more than a coarse, 
unsympathetic, and destructive criticism. Were it a matter of choice 
between these two, I do not doubt for a moment that his leaning 
would be decidedly towards the former, as truer to the spirit of his 
Master and more appreciative of history. Christ did not break with 
the past religious experiences of His countrymen. We find Him, 
not in His youth merely, when He was presumably under the control 
of His parents, in attendance at the temple service, but during His 
public ministry He frequented the synagogues and public religious 
assemblies, and appeared at the great national festivals in Jerusalem. 
He dismisses a man whom He healed with the instruction : " offer 
for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded." His relation 

♦ Rothe : " Theologische Ethik." 


to the past is, however, a discriminative one, as it must be from 
His critical and progressive standpoint. The apostles show that in 
this, as in other matters they held Him as their pattern and example, 
and endeavoured, in their dealings with the past, which the unfolding 
of Christ's life and teaching rendered necessary, to follow in His 

I may have appeared to some to have neglected the Master's 
example, as well as that of His apostles, in my strictures on the creeds. 
It was far from my intention to do any such thing. The remarks 
were illustrative, and if the language seem to be unnecessarily 
severe, or appear to betray a want of sympathy with former phases 
of thought, and Christian activity, I must plead the urgency of the 
occasion. Neither Christ nor His apostles were everywhere con- 
siderate of what had been. Traditionalism, as I have already said, 
had never such hard measure dealt out to it, even in prophetic times, 
as it received from Christ. Censure and denunciation could not go 
further. And the reason is plain. Directly traditionalism becomes 
an incubus on life and thought consideration is out of the question, 
and its true position must be assigned to it, even at the risk of much 
apparent harshness and severity. If it is not possible, as it sometimes 
is not, to breathe upon the dry bones and make them live, what other 
way is left, than to grind them to powder, and get at what life-power 
may remain in them, by scattering their dust upon a well tilled sofl 
to stimulate the seed of fresh life that is ready to burst into the 
light? If we cannot send the sap through dead dry sticks, and 
make them trees and shrubs tremulous with life, we can apply fire 
to them, and from their consumption extract heat for ourselves.* 
And if men cry out upon us for our waste, surely we have bat trans- 
formed the forces, not destroyed them. We have utilised them to 
the very utmost, and would not even throw away the ashes of the fire 
at which we warmed ourselves, but lay them reverently with the 
bone dust, knowing, as we do, that there is virtue even in them. It 
is not by any means the best use to keep them in the form of dry 
bones or dead sticks; no good can come to those who preserve 
them so. I do not say they were not once instinct with life ; they 
would not have been either bones or sticks, unless as remains of life 
once vigorous and beautiful. Now, it requires the Divine spark 
within ourselves to kindle the Divine fire within them and make it 

* Luther, no doubt, warmed himself and many others by a famous burning 
of his. 


ours. It requires at least the seed of Divine life, which, meeting 
whatever Divine stimulus is in them, may be brought to germination. 
A wise criticism, accordingly, even when in its apparently severest 
mood, never loses hold of the great principle of sympathetic ap- 
preciation of the past — appreciation begotten of reverence and per- 
sonal experience of all that is true to a genuine spiritual existence. 
What is perishable in that past may decay — must decay, and no 
living intelligence would seek either to hasten or hinder this by any 
unnatural proceeding. With unerring instinct it feels for what is 
imperishable among the perishable, and absorbs it as its life nourish- 
ment. In all healthy growing natures these two processes of rejection 
and assimilation go on together, the health and growth being de- 
pendent as much on the vigour with which the first function is per- 
formed, as on the energetic action of the last. And where there is 
a fair amount of vitality, this repellent and attractive force will in 
general, even in the spiritual sphere, have no tendency to any serious 
deviation from the law of all true life, that is, if left to itself, and un- 
influenced by arbitrary and conventional rules, it will throw off what- 
ever is hurtful, and seek out and cherish whatever is helpful to its 
maturity and full perfection. The growth of the human spirit, 
having present and past before it, will search in both for the nutri- 
ment of the soul, but not in the one more than in the other ; for time 
is no element in truth, on which a man's soul must live. Centuries 
cannot make it any more Divine. It is like God, the same yesterday, 
to-day, and for ever. It is in this aspect of human experience that 
the truth of the observation lies, that " history is an impertinence 
and an injury, if it be anything more than a cheerful apologue and 
parable of my being and becoming." 

It is, thus, that the man enlightened with Christ's spirit must ap- 
proach the past in the Bible. The imperishable exists in the contents 
of that book, as nowhere else in the records of humanity, preserved 
from age to age by men who had the spiritual life within them kindled, 
and kept burning by the memories of preceding times, and who added 
to these the revelations of Divine truth made to their own souls, thus 
laying up in successive times that glorious spiritual treasure, whose 
accumulated riches must for ever be the store for the needy spirit of 
mankind. It is impossible to dispense with it ; if it were possible, 
we would not. 

If there is development and unfolding in Divine things, it must be 
a progression that rises out of this past. All else is merely delusive. 
The world of man's social and spiritual life resembles in this the 


several eras in the formation of the material world; layer on layer 
it lies, and the topmost crust is a deposit on some past accretion. 
Geology is the philosophy of history applied to the phenomena of 
matter. A religious life is not dead, as some would have us believe, 
that looks to the past, as the awakener of its powers and the source 
of their increasing growth. Death only supervenes, when that past 
is thought to be for ever past, and not to be ever present in our 
own life, which it may be. It is against this spiritual deadness and 
scepticism, and the hindrance to the progress of Divine knowledge 
produced thereby, that I am contending for such a vital acceptance 
of that past, as will inevitably incite us to pass the limits which it 
had reached, and enable us to give to those who come after us a 
point of departure somewhat nearer the ultimate goal of all spiritual 
effort, than we ourselves possessed. Otherwise I know not "why we 
have any right to expect, as by our prayers we appear to anticipate, 
God's kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in 
heaven. I cannot see how, on any other ground, we are entitled to 
pray with Paul, that we may be enabled increasingly to know God's 
love. On no other supposition can I get any meaning out of one of 
many promises made by Christ : " when He, the Spirit of truth, is 
come, He will guide you into all truth." Are we to understand this 
simply to mean, all the truth in the canonical Scriptures of the Old 
Testament, and in the fragmentary utterances of Christ recorded in 
the Gospels P Then, it is a very grandiloquent way of expressing a 
very simple matter, and wholly unlike Christ's usual manner. Or 
are we to suppose that this promise was made to His immediate fol- 
lowers only, and not to those that should come after them P Then, 
we stand in a different relation to former Divine revelations than did 
Christ's immediate hearers, and the deliverance of Paul requires some 
modification, that " whatsoever things were written aforetime were 
written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the 
scriptures might have hope." If there are only some things for us 
and others for specially favoured men, what a difficulty does not such 
a system of interpretation introduce ? The difficulty that may at 
first sight be imagined tp lie in the " wise criticism " which I have 
advocated, is nothing to it. For, in the purified spiritual conscious- 
ness we have the Spirit of God bearing witness with the truth itself. 
In the words of the Larger Catechism of the Scottish Kirk : " The 
Spirit of God bearing witness by, and with, the Scripture in the 
heart of man is alone able fully to persuade it, that the Scriptures 
are the very word of God." In apportioning one set of truths in 



the word of God to one order of men, and another set to another, we 
are left without any such witnessing Spirit. Paul has no such view 
of former promises and experiences, but where they concern his life 
and spiritual growth he eagerly seizes them for himself and his 
hearers. The primitive record of the patriarch Abraham in its most 
personal details is thus absorbed by the energetic spiritual life of 
the man : "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was 
imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we 
believe." And so it was not written for the apostles' sake alone, 
that the spirit of truth should lead them into all truth, but for us 
also who shall have the same guidance, if we believe. If we do not 
believe, of course it is not ours ; no more would Abraham's experi- 
ence have become Paul's own, if he had lot it lie a dead historic inci- 
dent, out of all relation to him and his contemporaries. I imagine 
some such position as this is laid down in the Second Epistle of 
Peter, i. 20 : " No prophecy of the Scripture," this being a most evi- 
dent form, and, therefore, general expression of Divine revelation, 
"is of any private interpretation."* 

We are accustomed to hear the present dispensation described, as 
one of fuller revelation, than the Jewish. Undoubtedly it is so, but 
the expression needs expl